Potent opioids posing as common drugs could be sold at Irish festivals this summer


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Professor Eamon Keenan of the HSE’s Addiction Services raised concerns about the potential appearance of potent opioids, such as nitazenes, at summer festivals in Ireland. Users may unwittingly consume these powerful drugs disguised as other forms, leading to serious health risks and potential overdoses.

At the unveiling of the HSE’s Safer Nightlife Programme, Keenan made some remarks regarding the implementation of drug testing at four festivals. The initiative, in its third year, aims to minimize drug-related harm and monitor emerging trends.

The trends in Europe are mirrored in the trends in Ireland, so what happens in Europe happens here

Eamon Keenan

Drugs like cocaine, ketamine, and MDMA have increased in potency in recent years, according to him. A Finnish investigation revealed that a benzodiazepine tablet contained the strong opioid nitazenes, sparking concerns for unsuspecting individuals who might mistakenly consume it and experience its powerful effects.

Festival precautions

This summer, the HSE will implement backstage drug checking services at several festivals in Dublin and other areas in Ireland. Anonymous drug surrender bins are available at the Health Services Exhibit tent for those wishing to dispose of their unused medications. The on-site medical team can offer assistance and recommendations as required. Last summer, approximately 220 drugs were submitted for testing at three festivals.

The HSE, An Garda Síochána, and festival organizers have agreed not to police the tent.

Keenan emphasized that while it’s safer not to take illegal drugs, seeking immediate medical attention if feeling unwell is crucial.

At festivals where the HSE provided drug testing services last summer, several attendees reported experiencing unexpected and serious health complications following their use of drugs. These complications were attributed to the use of drugs such as MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, and cannabis. Among the adverse reactions were instances of psychosis.

The emergence of vapes infused with HHC (hexahydrocannabinol), a potent semisynthetic cannabinoid, has sparked alarm among medical professionals who are advocating for its ban due to the potential for inducing psychotic episodes.

The highly potent nature of HHC, a semisynthetic cannabinoid that shares similarities with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), makes it a hidden danger for unsuspecting consumers who may encounter it disguised as seemingly innocuous substances.

The dangerous reality of potent drugs

A significant proportion of those reaching out to addiction services – around 20% – report experiencing mental health issues as a result of using HHC. Consumers who are unaware of its risks may encounter unforeseen adverse effects from this substance, which can be particularly concerning given its growing popularity and prevalence in the illicit drug market.

The HSE’s Emerging Drug Trends Project Manager, Nicki Killeen, shared insights into the alarming increase in drug potencies that her team has identified through their investigative work over the past few years.

So one product could contain enough that could lead to a drug emergency

Nicki Killeen

During their investigations last summer, the HSE uncovered MDMA samples with varying potencies, ranging from a minimal 50 milligrams to an extremely high 240 milligrams per unit. This is significantly above the standard recommended dose for adults.

“But if people are doing drugs, we want them to come and talk to us, we want them to practice harm reduction, we want them to be aware of the trends that are out there and to be conscious of that heading into the summer season,” Killeen stated.

The clandestine use of drugs at Irish summer festivals poses a considerable risk for unwary consumers due to the potential presence of opioids, which can be deceitfully concealed in seemingly harmless forms. Unsuspecting users may encounter serious health complications and even potentially life-threatening overdoses upon ingestion of these potent substances.

Festival attendees must remain vigilant about the hidden dangers that come with consuming illicit drugs, which can pose serious health risks and even lead to fatal overdoses.

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