Text: Izzy Copestake
… which is much more dangerous than the real thing.
It’s recently been announced that over 50% of all ‘weed sweets’ seized by the Garda last year did not contain any of the active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They contained something much worse: synthetic cannabinoids.
Unlike cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals. These chemicals can be manufactured to look, smell, and even taste like marijuana, but their impacts are more unpredictable and usually stronger. Effects of taking the synthetic drug can include nausea, mood swings, sweating, and loss of muscle coordination.
But why is this so much worse than smoking weed? Unlike natural marijuana, chemically made synthetic cannabinoids can quickly become toxic to the body and the potency of the drug can vary dramatically, making overdosing a serious possibility. What’s worse, is that many of the consumers of the drug are unaware that what they are taking isn’t weed, and their bodily reaction can be very different from that under the influence of cannabis.
The forensic department carrying out the investigation for An Garda Síochána noted an explosion of popularity in sweets marketed to contain cannabis in recent years. They stated that the sweets containing synthetic drugs had been labeled as things like Jolly Ranchers, Nerds, and Starburts, pointing to a worrying possible marketing tactic targeting children. Last year, three teenagers were hospitalised after consuming Jolly Ranchers they believed to contain THC, instead, it contained the more dangerous chemical synthetic cannabinoid ADB-PINACA.
This issue is part of a wider problem in Ireland, in which consumers of drugs can never be sure what they are buying, allowing dealers to circulate unknown harmful substances. Unlike other European countries which provide anonymous drug testing services, Ireland is lagging in harm prevention. It was only this summer that the HSE allowed surrender bins at festivals. However, even this doesn’t fix the circulation of harmful synthetic drugs as festival goers have to give up what they have, and even then they were unable to know exactly what was in their specific stash.
Elsewhere on District: The Citizen’s Assembly Recommend Decriminalising All Drugs in Ireland