Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Party drugs': the facts and the dangers

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MDMA is most commonly known as ecstasy, a synthetic stimulant drug with hallucinogenic effects. It produces an energising effect, can distort time and perception and enhance sensory experiences.

It is usually found in pill or tablet form with various levels of concentration. Crystal and powder forms are taken orally or can be snorted.

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Recent surveys show it is growing in popularity and according to this year's European Drug Report by the EU drug agency, it was the second most used drug among young people over the past year after cannabis.

The percentage of people who report taking MDMA is rising faster in Ireland than anywhere else in the EU. Last year 4.4pc of young adults here reported using it, according to the EU survey. Anecdotal evidence suggests it is sometimes used as a substitute for alcohol but it is most commonly consumed with drink and sometimes cannabis or other drugs.

Short-term effects can start within an hour and last for several hours. They include dilated pupils, a tight jaw, increased body temperature and blood pressure and anxiety. The drug has been linked to sleep loss, dietary problems and depression. Other health effects include liver, kidney and heart problems.

The pills are often pressed into the shape of logos and come in a variety of shapes and colours. Officials in the UK have recently expressed caution at the strength of yellow and white TechnoGym, orange and white Sprite, blue Punisher, purple Audi and pink and purple Skype pills.

GHB, commonly known as G or liquid ecstasy, is another synthetic drug with sedative-type effects. It is available in liquid or powder form and its potency levels can vary so experts warn there is no safe dose. This also means there is a higher risk of overdosing with the drug. Consumption with alcohol has been linked to a loss of consciousness.

The immediate effects normally kick in within 20 minutes and last for several hours. A smaller dose makes users feel relaxed but stronger doses can bring on dizziness and a sense of confusion. Harmful effects include involuntary muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting.

Very little is known about the dangerous long-term effects of the drug but experts have linked it to convulsions, loss of consciousness and difficulty breathing.

Cocaine use peaked during the Celtic Tiger boom years but has become more popular again in recent times. It is a powerful stimulant but its effects can be brief. It is usually inhaled or snorted but can be smoked or injected. It is often cut and mixed with other materials and substances.

It has been linked to a faster heart rate, hyperactivity and an increased sex drive. Kidney problems, digestive disorders, aggression, breathing difficulties, mood swings and a loss of appetite are known side-effects.

Sunday Independent

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