Drugs are both a blessing and a burden in the society we live in today. They ensure that many stay alive; they’re also responsible for an average of one person dying a day in Ireland. We’ve all heard of the classics, the ones that seem too intimidating to even imagine taking. Mandy, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, meth, and the list goes on. Some of you may have taken them and crossed it off the bucket list. Some of you may have decided that once was enough. Others are not so lucky. The truth is; people snort, smoke and inject these toxic chemicals every day, to escape. People yearn to free themselves from the boundaries of their conscience. However, this is a mere fantasy which acts as a surreal prison to the grim reality of their lives.
Today, getting your hands on all the “scary” drugs is not the vast undertaking one would think. What’s even scarier is that it is possible to get your hands on their over the counter brothers. In July 2010, Head shops were supposedly sent down. The ban made it illegal to buy or sell mephedrone, spice products, and substances which mimic cannabis, cocaine, and ecstasy. Ireland breathed a sigh of relief and that was that. But it wasn’t. Today there is a growing problem in Cork. People both old and young are purchasing incense to smoke in the hope of achieving that coveted high. On a Tuesday afternoon, I went undercover to investigate.
“The Funky Skunk”, is a former head shop has been in the news numerous times. In 2012, Helen Stone, the former owner was taken into custody for the sale of MAM2201 or ‘ Mad Alice’; illegal cannabis substitute. The case was adjourned. In 2014, Stone again was convicted in when 950 sachets containing various measures of Salvinorin A for sale were found, with prices varying from €20 to €60, depending on the quantity. She was charged 15,000 euros. Still, if I wanted, I could waltz down to the Funky Skunk and buy a bag of “Moonshine”. 15 euro would get me 2 grams, 10 euro for 1 gram. It’s all too simple, today I realized the extent of the problem in a mere three hours of investigating. I started with the obvious and walked in with the intent to buy a bag. I thought it would be difficult, under the counter, hard to get. It wasn’t. I pretended to look at bongs as a frantic man ran in and asked was the stuff in yet. It wasn’t in yet. Next torpedoed in a woman asking why they didn’t have it in the shop on Shandon Street. “I neeeeeed a joint, why don’t ye have it????” she demanded. She left and I asked if they had “Firefly”. (I thought knowing some lingo would make me seem like a regular. He said they didn’t have it but they did have “Moonshine”. I asked if it was good for smoking. “You’re not supposed to smoke it.” Do lots of people buy it for smoking? “I dunno love, it’s not my business.” What was interesting was the fact that I needed an ID for when the delivery came in at five. Why did I need to be overage to buy this innocent incense?
Next, I walked to the shop on Shandon Street. Blink and you’d miss it. I asked the girl behind the counter did they have incense for smoking. “It’s not for smoking.” Do lots of people buy it for that purpose? “None a my business.” *A regular walks in with a buggy and buys two grams. I listen to the conversation that proceeds. A man talks of his friend that was pulled over for driving with a broken window. It had been broken by a rowdy group of boys looking for incense. She sped away scared. She was later arrested for drink driving.
“It makes ya fierce paranoid, ya heart would be jumpin’.”
I had no intention of buying this stuff, so it was time to wait. To wait for a mate that could fill me in. I spotted a boy that must have been between 14 and 16. His accomplice that looked about 12 waited around the corner as he went to get their “Moonshine”. I stopped and asked him if they had the stuff in yet. I told him my dealer was gone on holiday and if it was good. “It makes ya fierce paranoid, ya heart would be jumpin’.”
I claimed that I usually smoke marijuana; was this the same? “No, it’s not like dat at all, you’d be jumpy and off ya head like, my brother sells hash if you’ve any interest in that though.” And how long would a 15-gram bag last I inquired. “I’ll be through this in half an hour anyway.”
Ironically, I came across a group of baby faced teenagers. Their “dealer” must have been on holiday too because they were trying to put their euros together to get “smoke” at five in the Funky Skunk too. Three hours, and over seven people jonesing for the joint like substance, either that or they were very particular about their incense.
The fact is, although synthetic cannabinoids were created back in the 1970s it is only since 2002 that they have been widely available to consumers. They are similar to cannabis in the way that they create feelings of euphoria, increased appetite, lethargy, red eyes, heavy limbs, paranoia. Negative effects include; heart palpitations, vomiting, dizziness and fainting, an intense fear of death, irrational behavior, panic attacks, and psychosis.
These are just as detrimental as their highly illegal cousins. They are causing as much damage. They are being sold every day because “They’re not for smoking” and “It’s none of my business.” It’s heartbreaking that little kids are getting their hands on it. It’s time for action against drugs, both big and small; there should be no grey lines.