Surge in sale of crystal meth ingredients
A city centre pharmacist has told The Cork Independent that there has been an “upsurge” in the sale of decongestants recently. Pharmacists have been warned that some people are buying the over the counter drugs like Sudafed to manufacture crystal meth, a highly addictive class A drug.
Eastern European gangs have been reported as buying large amounts of common decongestants like Sudafed. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) has issued an alert to its members, after consultation with the Garda National Drug Unit.
Martin Lynch from the Victory Outreach group in Cork city centre which deals with drug addicts and offers them help, is worried that the drug will become common in Cork soon.
“I have heard that it’s on its way. It’s a very nasty drug that ruins lives quickly,” he said.
“If they can’t get it though chemists, they can get it elsewhere, online for example. They will have to do a little bit more. Crystal meth is a serious problem in the US and other countries.
“It’s a class A drug and highly addictive and it can be made fairly cheaply,” Mr Lynch said.
The pharmacist was less worried and said: “there’s always a new drug of the moment. It’s par for the course and always something new.”
Sudafed contains pseudoephedrine, which is used in the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine. Long-term crystal meth use can cause brain damage, strokes or death. Other effects include weight loss, tooth decay and cracked teeth, psychosis and hallucinations.
“In America it was taken off over the counter sale. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland hasn’t warned about the sale of any product for a long-time.”
Most of the men who bought the medicine in large quantities in the city centre pharmacy were Eastern European.
“They weren’t high and they weren’t very good at it. They were quite obvious and didn’t hide what they were doing. They didn’t discuss symptoms like most Irish people would.”
The pharmacist thinks that perhaps the men were part of a gang that travelled from town to town buying large quantities of Sudafed.
“Personally I would take the 24 packs away from the counter. It’s pretty obvious who is buying it for crystal meth production.
“It can be easily changed, like a recipe. It’s pretty simple. You hear of it being produced in garages and woods,” they added.
“It’s restricted in America. Tourists from America often comment on its availability here. Crystal meth is a much bigger problem in America. It could be an epidemic but in Ireland pharmacists are pretty good. A lot of pharmacies are independent and keep track of what they are selling.”
The pharmacist also pointed out independent chemists usually know their customers and can identify unusual trends quite easily.
Martin Lynch, a former heroin addict, fears that it could become an epidemic here too although “no one has presented themselves for treatment but we are preparing ourselves and looking at how places abroad treat crystal meth addicts”.
He says that the effect is fairly similar to cocaine but it’s more accessible as it’s much cheaper.
Mr Lynch says that he would be worried if crystal meth becomes common in Cork “looking at other countries and how quickly it spreads”.
“You can make it quite easily and you can make it at home. You have drug dealers who can produce it themselves and not just in larger cities. As dealers make more money, they can produce more and more, so it’s a vicious circle.
“It also causes increased aggression. If the right protocols are taken, it could be stopped pretty quickly but it can get out of control very quickly,” he said.
Rory O’Donnell, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union said that his members were probably among the first to flag the issue.
“It seems to have been happening. A number of people were trying to get their hands on a whole load of Sudafed.
“I do hope that it’s on a small scale. We’ve stopped it being a major problem in Ireland as it is elsewhere. Our policy is that pharmacies continue to exercise diligence and contact the authorities if they suspect anything,” he said.
Martin Lynch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org