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Home > Further update on psychoactive substances sold in head shops and on line.

Long, Jean (2010) Further update on psychoactive substances sold in head shops and on line. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 35, Autumn 2010 , pp. 15-16.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland issue 35) - Published Version

The Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 (No. 22 of 2010)1 came into operation on Monday 23 August 2010. The intention of the Act is to prevent the misuse of dangerous or otherwise harmful psychoactive substances by making it an offence to sell, import, export or advertise such psychoactive substances. The Act provides powers to the Garda Síochána (police) to investigate such offences and to issue prohibition notices. It allows the District Court to institute prohibition and closure orders in certain circumstances. The Act also amends the Customs and Excise (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1988.  

Numbers of head shops
A Garda inventory of head shops in Ireland indicated that, at their peak in early 2010 there were 113 head shops in the country, with at least one in every county. On 11 May 2010 (the date of the government ban on a range of head shop products) there were 102 shops, 11 having closed for a variety of reasons. On 12 May, the gardaí visited all head shops and warehouses and seized all banned products. By 13 May there were 34 head shops selling psychoactive substances, and in early August the number increased to 39 shops. Following the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010, the gardaí visited head shops in early September, only 19 were open and none were selling psychoactive substances (Garda Síochána, personal communication, 2010).
New substances detected ‘post-ban’
Several additional psychoactive substances have been identified in head shop products by Dr Pierce Kavanagh and his laboratory team (at Trinity College and the Drug Treatment Centre Board) since the publication of Issues 33 and 34 of Drugnet Ireland. The team illustrated their results in a ‘post- Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010’ identification chart,2 reproduced on pages 16–17 A summary of the substances identified is given below.
Dimethocaine, also known as larocaine, is a local anesthetic with stimulant properties that are nearly as potent as those of cocaine. However, anecdotal user reports indicate no euphoria and only mild stimulating effects. This drug may induce a fast and irregular heart beat which could be problematic for those who continuously redose. The drug has induced respiratory arrest. Dimethocaine was identified in the head-shop products Amplified, Mint Mania and Mind Melt. The Ana Liffey Drug Project reported that a number of clients experienced negative effects of a product called Amplifier (most likely Amplified). The clients reported that the drug is available in two forms; a rock which is smoked by pipe and a tablet which is broken down to inject. According to the users of this drug, it has a stimulant effect and a bad come down. Some users reported paranoia or auditory or visual hallucinations.. In August 2010 three users, who had a previous mental health diagnosis, were admitted to a psychiatric hospital following hallucinations and depression.
AM-694 is a drug which acts as a potent and selective agonist for the cannabinoid receptor CB1. No public data about AM-694 metabolism is known. AM-694 has emerged as a designer drug, and in Ireland, it was detected in the product Shamrock. Concerns have been raised over the possible toxicity of this compound, because of its likely metabolism to ω-fluoroalkanoic acids.
Glaucine is an alkaloid found in several different plant species. It has bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory effects and is used as a cough suppressant in some countries. Glaucine may induce fatigue or hallucinations (which are usually colourful visual images). This substance was detected as the active ingredient in the head-shop product Entrophy.
Phenethylamine (PEA) is a natural monoamine alkaloid and a psychoactive drug with stimulant effects. This substance was detected in the head-shop products Diablo, Dr Feelgood, Entrophy, Nemesis, and Party On.
Metamfepramone also known as dimethylcathinone, dimethylpropion, or dimepropion, is a stimulant drug of the phenethylamine, amphetamine, and cathinone chemical classes. Dimethylcathinone was evaluated as an appetite suppressant and for the treatment of hypotension, but was never widely marketed. Metamfepramone is used for the treatment of the common cold. This substance was detected in a product sold in tablet form as BluE.
Synephrine is the main active compound found in the bitter orange which is an extract of a plant called Citrus aurantium. It is a stimulant that constricts the blood vessels, increases metabolic and heart rates. Synephrine has been identified in the head shop products Energy, Go-E, Empathy, Bio Happiness, Exotic and Molotov
Mitragynine, an opioid agonist, is a stimulant at low doses and a painkiller or sedative at higher doses. It can cause constipation, weight loss, dependence, psychosis and withdrawal symptoms. It is not controlled in Ireland. Mitragynine is an active ingredient in the products Kratom and Xscape.
Hordenine  occurs in a variety of grassy plants and grains, and in some species of cactus. It stimulates the release of norepinephrine in humans, and also has antibacterial and antibiotic properties. There are unsubstantiated claims that hordenine helps people lose weight. It was detected in the products Go-E and Dr Feelgood.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally-occurring amino acid and a metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan. 5-HTP sourced from the seeds of the plant Griffonia simplicifolia is sold over the counter in the US and Canada as a dietary supplement and as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant, and sleep aid. It is marketed in many European countries for the treatment of major depression. Several double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of 5-HTP in the treatment of depression, though the quality of the studies has been disputed. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. 5-HTP was detected in the head-shop product Dr Feelgood.
L-dopa (levodopa) is a naturally occurring dietary supplement and psychoactive drug found in certain kinds of food and herbs. It is synthesized from the essential amino acid L-tyrosine in humans. L-dopa is the precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and epinephrine (adrenaline). Aside from its natural and essential biological role, L-dopa is also used in the clinical treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD) and dopamine-responsive dystonia (involuntary spasms of the limbs). It was detected in the product Raz.
Desoxypipradrol was developed in the 1950s, and has been researched for applications such as the treatment of narcolepsy (a condition which results in uncontrolled sleeping) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and facilitation of rapid recovery from anaesthesia; for various reasons its development for application in these areas was not continued. The hydroxylated derivative, pipradrol, was introduced as a clinical drug for the treatment of for depression, narcolepsy and cognitive enhancement in organic dementia. Desoxypipradrol was detected in the head-shop product Whack.
Tests in recent weeks have identified yet more psychoactive substances that may be used as recreational drugs. There is very little information available about the uses or effects of these substances:


  • 3',4'-Methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinobutiophenone (MDPBP) is a stimulant compound developed in the 1960s which has been reported as a novel designer drug.
  • Oleamide was found in the smoking blends Smoke and Skunk alongside the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018, which was classified as the active ingredient. There is no evidence that oleamide is used specifically as a recreational drug.
  • Octopamine and synephrine are the adrenergic amines in bitter orange.
  • Buphedrone, also known as α-methylamino-butyrophenone, is a stimulant of the phenethylamine, amphetamine, and cathinone chemical classes that was first synthesized in 1928. It has similar effects to methcathinone but is several times more potent by weight.

The products caffeine and lignocaine were found in numerous head shop products.

  • Caffeine is a legal psychoactive stimulant and easy to acquire. Caffeine was found in the products Blowout, Bliss Bomb, Diablo, Dr Feelgood, Energy, Embrace, Extreme Star Dust, Go-E, Koru, Nemesis, NRG Now, Pure NRG, Pinkys, Raz, Sno*berry, Star Dust, and Party On.,
  • Lignocaine (or lidocaine) is an anaesthetic drug; it is found in Extreme Star Dust, Pure NRG, Raz, Star Dust.
1. Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 (No. 22 of 2010). Available at
2. Kavanagh P, Spiers P, O’Brien J, McNamara S, Angelov D, Mullan D, Talbot B and Ryder S (2010) Head shop ‘legal highs’ active constituents identification chart (July/August  2010, ‘714’ – ‘823’). Dublin: Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, TCD.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
New psychoactive substance
Issue Title
Issue 35, Autumn 2010
Page Range
pp. 15-16
Health Research Board
Issue 35, Autumn 2010
Accession Number
HRB (Available)
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