Leading addiction specialist warns of dangers of new synthetic mixes of drugs
A LEADING addiction specialist has warned recreational drug users that they are most at risk from dangers of new synthetic mixes.
As Merchants Quay Ireland launched its annual report for last year, chief executive Tony Geoghegan described the classification of substances as soft or hard as meaningless.
Weekend drug takers face the biggest dangers from lethal concoctions such as the brown powder ecstasy-type mix which is suspected of killing two men in Cork, he warned.
"It's a real party drug and certainly people coming into our centre would use it, but they tend to be more experienced drug users and unfortunately in the general public we have this inane classification of soft drugs and hard drugs," he said.
"Therefore, people think that drugs like ecstasy and amphetamines are soft drugs or recreational drugs.
"And paradoxically, it's experimenters and recreational users that are most vulnerable because they probably know the least about drugs, the least about what the effects are like, what to expect, how to manage them, how to source them. All that.
"It really is a difficult situation."
Mr Geoghegan's warning came a day after a priest at one of the funerals of the men who died from suspected drugs poisoning in Kinsale, Co Cork described dealers as "less than human" and "purveyors of grief and doom".
Michael Coleman and Liam Coffey were found dead in a rented house in the town on Sunday morning. Their deaths prompted gardai and health chiefs to warn users against taking the substance which is known to contain methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA/ecstasy) and paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) and has the street name Mandy.
Mr Geoghegan said users are dicing with different chemical reactions in their bodies by taking lethal mixtures, from alcohol and cocaine to the amphetamine and ecstasy mix.
Merchants Quay Ireland, which offers services to homeless people and drug addicts, said it provided around 73,000 meals to people last year, up from 64,000 in 2010. The 14% rise is attributed to the economic downturn.
Mr Geoghegan said the crisis of people needing free meals is 1980s history repeating itself.
"It really shows the level of poverty and desperation that is out there," he told RTE Radio.
"People have myths about homeless people, saying 'oh they don't really need to be homeless'. But you don't come to a homeless centre for food unless you really need to do that."
He also said that, from the experience of Merchants Quay Ireland's long history of support, the high level of youth unemployment means there is a danger of a drugs crisis.
The charity said demand for its free GP service also increased in 2011 by more than 20pc from 874 to around 1,150.
The number of people using the needle exchange fell slightly, from more than 4,300 in 2010 to 4,050 last year, and the number of new clients involved dropped from 575 to around 500.