for fake sake  | 

Irish sun worshippers snorting illegal tanning drug which can cause cancer

Melanotan drops - which promise to help darken the skin - are being flogged across social media, with streams of users taking to TikTok to demo how to snort the illegal substance.

The HPRA has warned Irish consumers of the dangers of using Melanotan

Denise Smith

IRISH sun worshippers seeking a year-long glow are dicing with death by snorting a highly toxic tanning drug that can lead to kidney failure and brain swelling.

Melanotan drops - which promise to help darken the skin - are being flogged across social media, with streams of users taking to TikTok to demo how to snort the illegal substance.

In an exclusive Sunday World investigation, we can reveal just how easy it is to find potentially-lethal nasal sprays online.

Enticed by unscrupulous online adverts promising a sunkissed, long-lasting tan, Irish men and women are ignoring the health warnings and pumping their bodies with the banned substance called Melanotan or Melanotan 2.

The nasal spray

Also known as the Barbie-doll drug, the synthetic chemicals can potentially increase the risk of heart problems and cancer.

Melanotan is unregulated and currently illegal on the Irish market, but customers are still ordering the so-called miracle drug online - and, in some cases, in tanning salons who sell the deadly concoction.

Promoted by dozens of online influencers, Geordie Shore star Bethan Kershaw recently told her 700,000 followers that she has used nasal sprays.

One Irish user has told the Sunday World that she recently began using the substance, which she said made her "dizzy and light-headed".

Geordie Shore star Bethan Kershaw admitted using the product

Sarah (20), from north Dublin and who is a regular sunbed user, knows the dangers but decided it was worth the risk for an all-over tan.

"I had to ask for the nasal spray behind the [salon] counter because they are not actually allowed to sell them because they are illegal," she tells us.

"You can't advertise to sell them in the tanning shop because whatever is in them isn't good for you.

"They produce a melanin in your body which makes you tan quicker.

"They are €35 and they last about a month, which is doing three to four sunbeds a week.

"I used to pump two sprays in each nostril about an hour before I did a sunbed.

"The sunbed would actually be a lot warmer because my body would be producing more melanin, so I got a tan quicker using them and went way darker.

"I was doing sunbeds before and it was taking me ages, and then I went on to the nasal sprays and I noticed in a week or two I went so dark and I didn't need to do as many sunbeds a week."

Aware of side effects, the Dubliner adds: "It is a strong taste going down the back of your throat and it made my stomach a little sick.

"I know it can make people feel dizzy and light-headed, but it is different for everyone.

"I got to know the girl in the shop and I asked her was there anything that would make me tan quicker, and she recommended them - but obviously it is at your own risk.

"I was really, really dark within a month. I only used the nasal sprays for about a month."

Dubliner Mark (30) was also pulled in by the promise of bronzed skin.

"It costs €50, I do just a quick squirt up each nostril just before I get on the bed," he reveals. "They tan you mad quick and it's a different level of tan that you normally wouldn't get."

Marketed as a quick and easy tanning solution across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, the unregulated nasal sprays - which have not been medically tested on humans - contain a synthetic hormone designed to stimulate the production of melanin, a pigment which darkens the skin when exposed to UV rays.

With almost immediate results, the drug stimulates the body to produce 1,000 times more melanin than what naturally occurs.

Shockingly, would-be tanners are then encouraged to use sunbeds to deepen the tan, further increasing their risk of cancer.

Despite the apparent risks, buyers have taken to TikTok to post videos where they can be seen explaining how to take the tanning drug.

Our reporter made contact with one drug pusher who sells the illegal drug on Facebook and Instagram.

She was informed of the price and the name of the drug and directed to make payment of €30 through a PayPal account.

With no regard to our medical history, the seller sends on the following instructions: "When u purchase I send u the instructions and how many sprays etc., you def will see some difference after a few sprays."

When we enquire about how much of the spray we should take, the seller responds: "Depends how white u are hun lol yeh it def works you'll see some difference even after 2/3 uses x (sic)."

Of course, there are many more unmentioned risks, with the nasal sprays reportedly triggering heart, brain and kidney problems, as well as skin cancer.

Oblivious, delighted customers are happy to leave testimonials of the drug's miracle qualities.

"My colour is unreal. Everyone asking me what I'm using. I sent them ur way I'll order more off u next week."

Another happy user wrote: "Just wanted to send in my pictures from my holiday last year using nasal tanners. Usually takes me a while to get a decent tan but I got one quickly and didn't burn at all. Definitely buying them again this year as they worked so well for me."

One customer added: "I normally go bright red and then back to white - never tan at all! So happy with the results will be purchasing again soon."

This week, in a statement released to the Sunday World, the Health Products RegulatoryAuthority (HPRA) said: "Melanotan II (also known as Melanotan 2, Melanotan or MT2) is an unauthorised medicine.

"The product is typically sold as either as injectable powder (administration via injection) or as a nasal spray (administration via nasal inhalation).

"The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) advises that Melanotan II should not be used in any circumstance and routinely monitors and removes any such products which are listed for sale and supply on Facebook and other social media and online channels.

"There is no guarantee as to the quality, safety or efficacy of these unauthorised medicines.

"In addition, the administration of these products by injection or by nasal inhalation further increases the health risks.

"The public should be aware that it is not possible to obtain these products in any legitimate establishment or for it to be supplied legally through any online source.

"The HPRA strongly advises the public not to purchase or use Melanotan."

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