SUBSTANCES sold in Headshops around the country could be more toxic than illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, a leading A&E consultant has warned.
'Charge Plus', which contains mephedrone, can be purchased freely in Headshops.
But despite being available to buy over the counter, Dr Chris Luke, a consultant in Accident & Emergency Medicine in Cork University Hospital and Mercy Hospital, has warned it is just as dangerous to consume as cocaine or ecstasy.
Dr Luke's comments came just two weeks after a 17-year-old girl from Bray had a seizure after taking the substance mephedrone.
"Mephedrone and drugs like it only came onto the public health radar two years ago. Since then there have been at least half a dozen cases involving the drug," he told the Herald. "The substances wouldn't get off first base in terms of regulation."
Even though there haven't been many tests done on the health impact of the substances, Dr Luke thinks that they can have serious side effects.
"It is sold as a pseudo cocaine or ecstasy, but it actually seems to be more toxic," he warned.
The symptoms, as described by Dr Luke, are a mixture of panic, delirium and hallucinations. "It takes users two to three days to come back to earth."
He is also sceptical about the 'not for human consumption' disclaimer on the packet.
"It is like driving in a car park full of potholes," he said.
"They can just say 'I told the guy that it wasn't for human consumption' and they get away with it."
Users can also become violent when on the substances. Dr Luke thinks that it is different from "cocaine violence" which is more to do with "bloodlust."
"It is more like 'magic mushroom' violence. People can become psychotic and it can be very hard to restrain them."
Recently, two boys died in Britain from taking mephedrone and also drank alcohol the night they died. This mixture is also a problem in Ireland as well as Britain, according to Dr Luke.
Mephedrone can be found in products such as 'Charge Plus'.
Purchased in a Headshop in Dublin at €17.50 for half a gram, the packet states that these are "novelty bath salts only; not for human consumption".
The tagline on the packet goes on to say, "The most invigorating bath salt! Just add a sprinkle to the mix and you get charged for the day."
In a statement, the Department of Health said: "The Department is aware that it has been found in tests that the products sold as Recharge and Charge Plus contain mephedrone or other similar cathinone substances such as flephedrone, or MDPV."
None of these ingredients are mentioned on the packaging.
"New legislation will place controls on all uses of mephedrone and related substances, including where products are labelled 'not for human consumption'."
However, EU directives have delayed the legislation banning the substances because it must be given a three-month notice on any restriction of trade.
A Garda spokesperson said that the force currently has no authority to confiscate these substances as they are not illegal, though they can arrest someone who is under the influence of any legal high.