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It’s Irish AIDS Day

Find out more about the Snow Blow campaign launched today

Written by Tricia Purcell | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news

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The ASK campaign is a harm reduction and HIV prevention campaign developed by Ana Liffey Drug Project & HIV Ireland. The campaign aims to help address increasing HIV diagnoses amongst injecting snow blow users in Ireland.

HIV diagnoses are increasing among people who inject the drug snow blow.

What is Snow Blow?

Snow blow is a type of drug called a cathinone. It is similar to cocaine in that it is a short-acting stimulant drug. A number of different cathinones have been sold in Ireland as snow blow. In powder form, cathinones are generally a fine white, off white, yellowish or brown powder. Cathinones can also come in crystal form. Cathinones can be snorted, injected, inhaled or taken orally.

Short-term effects of cathinones may include:

  • Elevated mood/euphoria
  • Increased confidence
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Fits
  • Dehydration
  • Teeth grinding (Bruxism)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased sex drive
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased body temperature/hot flushes
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Memory problems
  • Racing heartbeat/heart palpitations
  • Blue lips or limbs(from circulation)
  • Rapid rise in tolerance
  • Insomnia
  • Skin rashes

Mental health

Snow blow use is associated with difficult come downs and has also been associated with a recent increase in individuals presenting to emergency departments with acute psychotic episodes.

Injecting Episodes

People who inject snow blow are likely to inject more often, therefore increasing the risk of sharing injecting equipment. Using snow blow may also enhance your sex drive, increasing the risk of unprotected sex.

Snow blow is a short-acting stimulant type drug similar to cocaine or amphetamines - meaning people tend to re-dose frequently - with some reporting injecting between 10-20 times a day. This can result in users running out of clean injecting equipment and reusing or sharing equipment. Snow blow users should be encouraged to ask for enough needles, cookers, filters, water, injecting information and condoms at their needle exchange.

Harm reduction advice for safer injecting:

  • Always divide your snow blow before you begin injecting if using with a friend or group.
  • Start low and go slow - always start with a small test dose to see how you react to the drug and inject slowly.
  • Cook up with clean sterile water. Substances should be fully dissolved before injecting - citric may not be needed.
  • Don’t reuse the same needle. Needles become blunt after being used once. If you don’t hit a vein the first time, use a new needle until you inject successfully.
  • Snow blow injectors often experience a painful burning sensation, swelling and discomfort at injecting sites. Snow blow injecting can leave wounds which take some time to heal. Place a plaster over these sites and try to not use them to inject.
  • Always rotate injecting sites.
  • Avoid using snow blow with other drugs including alcohol and prescription medication.
  • Use your own injecting equipment. Sharing injecting equipment increases the risk of getting blood borne viruses like HIV.
  • Stay hydrated and try to drink a pint of water an hour.
  • Use in trusted company, never use alone.
  • It can be hard to inject snow blow without causing pain and soft tissue damage. Improving injecting technique can reduce discomfort, vein damage and the risk of getting blood borne viruses. Safer injecting advice is available from needle exchange services.
  • When injecting snow blow the urge to share needles is usually strongest after you have used.  Snow blow can make people feel close or connected to the people they are injecting with.  These feelings could lead to sharing snow blow or sharing equipment.
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Published June 15th, 2016
Last updated January 8th, 2018
Tags aids hiv drugs
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