Cathinone 3-methylmethcathinone, also known as 3-MMC or metaphedrone is a synthetic drug.
The drug comes in the form of a white crystalline powder, and it has gained popularity among recreational drug users in recent years.
As part of the analysis of 155 used syringes by the HSE in partnership with Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), traces of the drug was found on 11.3% of syringes from Dublin and 23.6% of those from the Midlands.
“New drug trends have been identified such as the presence of the synthetic cathinone 3-MMC for the first time in this population,” the report read.
It can be taken via inhalation, injection, insufflation or oral administration.
According to a risk-assessment report of 3-MMC carried out by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) physical effects of the drug may include: elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, peripheral vasoconstriction, bruxism (grinding of the teeth), dilated pupils, sweating, and increased body temperature.
Psychological and behavioural effects may include general stimulation, elevated mood, euphoria, increased energy, sociability, and increased libido. It may also include insomnia, anxiety, and psychosis.
While the full effects of the drug have not been studied, it is based on information related to its stimulant properties, information from acute poisonings with confirmed exposure to the substance, as well as self-reported experiences.
The report also states that the effects of 3-MMC are expected to share similarities with other closely related synthetic drugs.
Between 2013 and 2021 there were 27 deaths and 291 acute poisonings connected with 3-MCC in EU member states.
The drug was first identified on the European drug market in June 2012 when a seizure was made at customs in Sweden.
Use of the drug in Europe declined in the years following but began to grow again in 2019.
It comes after it was announced that the HSE will operate a pilot anonymous drug testing service at Electric Picnic next month.
The limited trial is part of the Health Service Executive’s drug harm reduction campaign and will mark the first time illegal drugs are tested outside of authorised State facilities.
The ‘Safer Nightlife’ programme has already seen HSE-trained volunteers at Irish festivals this summer assisting in emergencies and giving advice on how to reduce the risks associated with drug use.
Professor Eamon Keenan, HSE National Clinical Lead in addiction services, said this pilot project is being trialled for research and monitoring purposes over the weekend of September 2 to 4 in Stradbally, Co Laois for the annual Electric Picnic festival.
He said it will allow HSE testers to identify and monitor anonymous substances which are surrendered either in a designated “amnesty bin” or brought in by gardaí.
The amnesty bins will be positioned inside the welfare and medical tent, where complete anonymity will be granted and no gardaí will be present.
Substances can be analysed in “real-time” to determine if a substance is particularly harmful, along with the strength of the drugs.
“We can then get that message out via social media, via festival promoters to everyone at the event and warn them of the harm of these substances,” Mr Keenan said.
He added he believes the measure “will save lives”.
Gardai have reminded festival goers that possession of drugs for personal use is illegal and subject to prosecution.
The HSE has also stressed that it is safer not to use drugs but if a person chooses to use illegal substances, they should have the option to receive information and help in order to minimise harm.