FEARS are growing about a new type of synthetic ecstasy that has hallucinogenic properties and has left several people hospitalised.
Five people have recently been treated – three in Dublin and two in Cork – over the use of the new form of the drug, nicknamed 'Casper' or 'Blue Ghost'.
The pill, which is manufactured in the image of a ghost, was at the centre of a major health warning at the Electric Picnic festival in Co Laois last year when organisers became concerned contaminated forms of ecstasy were in circulation.
In one of the recent cases, a young man became extremely violent and had to be restrained.
Friends and family said this was entirely out of character.
In another case, a user became extremely ill and was left terrified by vivid hallucinations, which continued for 36 hours.
In one of the Dublin cases, medics became concerned over an alarming spike in the temperature of a young man who had just consumed the blue tablet.
Gardai admitted they were worried that it was only a matter of time before they were dealing with a fatality due to 'Casper' or 'Blue Ghost' use.
"This drug has come into circulation over the past 12 months or so. What concerns us is that users don't seem to be aware of the dangers posed by ecstasy-type drugs and that there seems to be some kind of hallucinogenic side-effect to this particular drug," one garda source warned.
"People may think that drugs like ecstasy are not dangerous, but that is far from the case, as a number of tragedies from the 1980s right up to the present time will show."
The currents forms of 'Casper' and 'Blue Ghost' can also prove extremely potent, with the euphoric effect of the drug lasting in some cases for up to 48 hours. However, the greatest concern is focused on potential contaminants in the drug which can prove highly toxic when combined with either alcohol or other drugs.
The tablet sells on the street for between €5 and €10.
Such ecstasy-type drugs have become increasingly popular after the Celtic Tiger economic collapse meant that cocaine was increasingly unaffordable.
A 23-year-old woman died after ingesting the drug in Meath last April. At least nine young men also died in 2012/2013 from variants of ecstasy in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Two young Waterford men who died in Kinsale, Co Cork, in 2012 had both taken another form of the drug known as PMMA.