Since cocaine sales have plummeted in the past 12 months – due to the recession – drug dealers have been forced to adapt.
Ecstasy has made a major comeback because the pills are priced at just €5. Powder ecstasy, MDMA, has also risen in popularity and, similar to cocaine, it is often snorted.
But it is the owners of so-called 'head shops' that have really capitalised on the drugs market in recent months. There are about 20 of these shops selling a wide variety of legal highs all over the country. Several online websites which sell legal drugs online have also seen a huge upsurge in their sales from Irish customers.
Nirvana Head Shop on Dublin's South William Street is located beside the popular nightclub Spy. The shop, which, its website states, sells "legal weed, party pills and the hallucinogenic plant salvia", stays open until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights, it confirmed when contacted.
"It is clearly targeting people going into the nightclub and other people going to nightclubs in that very busy area. A lot of people going in at late hours are often drunk and their judgement is naturally impaired when they make the decision to experiment with some of these substances," said a source.
Another popular drug at the moment in Ireland is PCP, a dissociative drug which makes the mind feel separated from the body. Ketamine, a strong tranquilliser used on animals, has also sold well in Ireland. Probably the most popular legal high being experimented with in Ireland at the moment is mephedrone. It is marketed as a legal alternative to ecstasy and cocaine – but some users have reacted badly to it and drug-awareness groups have warned that "legal doesn't equal safe". It is made in Chinese laboratories and imported legally to the UK. Technically, the white powder is a plant food but it is predominantly sold on websites which sell drug paraphernalia and legal highs.
The Sunday Tribune placed an order for 2g of the white powder from a UK website recently. It arrived within a couple of days. Including postage. The legal drug cost just €25.20. In comparison, a gram of cocaine costs between €60-€80.
The quality of some legal highs has improved to such an extent that some dealers are now buying drugs online and selling them on as cocaine and ecstasy, according to sources.