Dealers selling highly potent sedatives on city streets
DRUGS gangs are making millions selling prescription tablets, leaving drug users semi-conscious on city streets and suffering memory blackouts lasting for days.
Highly-organised networks are running a daily business in which highly potent sedatives and sleeping tablets are changing hands for as little as €1.
The trade is barely concealed in Dublin’s north inner-city, where drug users take tablets along with alcohol, methadone and heroin in a horrific cocktail of addiction.
The pills are being sold despite the highly visible presence of armed gardaí since the lethal gangland feud between the Hutch and Kinahan criminal gangs erupted.
Every morning, groups of desperate drug addicts gather in knots in city-centre streets swapping phone numbers and information.
They’re waiting for dealers to turn up with their orders, supplying anything from heroin to prescription tablets.
It is obvious even to a casual observer what is going on and youngsters turn up on mountain bikes to collect cash or hand over bags or blister packs of pills.
Zopiclone is a powerful sleeping tablet or ‘hypnotic agent’ that is used to treat severe sleep disorders such as insomnia.
It is not prescribed for use for more than a maximum of six weeks because of the high risk of physical and psychological risks of addiction.
It is also known under its brand names of Zimovane and Imovane and referred to as ‘zimmos’ or ‘zeds’.
A Sunday World source said that the gangs behind the trade are highly-organised, with dealers being paid a daily wage of €100 to sell the tablets.
“They’re out every day and have their regular customers, just like any other business,” said the source.
“Zimmos are easy to get. Anything you want is available,” he added.
Close to Summerhill Parade in Dublin, our source made a mobile phone call and within 20 minutes showed off the 30 zopiclone tablets bought for €30.
“These aren’t in the blister packs because the girls don’t like to stuff them into their bras,” he laughed.
In the locations where druggies regularly gather, the foil blister packs of generic zopiclone are littered on the ground.
The illegal trade started more than a decade ago, when 10 million Zimovane tablets were stolen from a warehouse and gradually sold off on the streets.
Then the criminal gangs started getting the back-street version smuggled in from the Far East, where they were illicitly manufactured.
Over the last three years the Irish gangs have been manufacturing their own supply, after Chinese chemists showed them how to make the drugs.
Gardaí have been slow to crackdown on the trade because of the lack of clarity in the law on the illicit sale of prescription drugs such as zopiclone.
The government brought a bill before the Dáil in June this year intended to make it easier to bring prosecutions.
“The Bill provides that certain prescription medicines currently being sold illegally on our streets which are not already controlled drugs, will come under the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act,” stated health minister Simon Harris at the time.
“These include so-called z-drugs – zopiclone and zaleplon,” he added.
Six months ago a ‘zimmo’ dealer escaped jail time despite being caught with 15,000 tablets after a Garda surveillance operation.
Gavin Kinsella was caught red-handed operating a racket selling ‘zimmos’ from his city flat in Dublin, not far from where our Sunday World source demonstrated how easy they are to buy this week.
Kinsella, who pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to keeping for supply a prescription only medicinal product at his home in Summerhill, got a three-year suspended sentence.
The drug is in such widespread use it is now regularly being detected in the toxicological reports on drug users who have died suddenly.
This week, Dublin Coroner’s Court found that the drug was a factor in the death of a man found dead at a Health Service Executive hostel in west Dublin.
John O’Hanrahan (37), had a number of medications in his system at the time of his death, including Xanax, Valium, an anti-psychotic drug clozapine, as well as Zopiclone. None of the substances were at toxic levels, but the combined effect is “extremely sedating”, the coroner said.
“The depression of the central nervous system deprives you of the stimulus to breathe, you enter into a deep coma from which you do not recover,” Dr Myra Cullinane added.