Updated Data on Purity of Illicit Drugs View More News Articles

Updated Data on Purity of Illicit Drugs

The average purity of amphetamine seizures analysed in 2015 was 9.2%, according to data published today by Forensic Science Ireland.  The average purity of street level cocaine was 28% in Dublin and 19% outside of Dublin.  The average purity of street level heroin was 33% in Dublin and 35% outside Dublin.  The purity of bulk cocaine and bulk heroin seizures was 40%.  International comparisons from across Europe show that amphetamine seizures were typically of 9 – 19% purity, cocaine typically 33 – 50% purity and heroin typically 13 - 23% purity.


Common adulterants found in cocaine were levamisole, benzocaine, lignocaine, caffeine and phenacetin.  Levamisole is a veterinary medication used to treat parasitic worm infections and is believed to be added during cocaine production to potentiate its effects.  Benzocaine and lignocaine (also known as lidocaine) are local anesthetics commonly used by dentists.  Phenacetin is a painkiller banned in a number of countries as overuse was linked to certain cancers.

Common adulterants found in heroin were caffeine and paracetamol.  The most common adulterant found in amphetamine was caffeine.

Forensic Science Ireland analyses illicit drugs seized by An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service and issues Certificates of Analysis for court purposes.  Approximately 8,000 seizures will be submitted for analysis in 2016.  The principal drugs of abuse detected in 2015 were cannabis, heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and MDMA (ecstasy).  A major part of the work of the FSI Drugs Section in recent years has been the identification of new psychoactive substances (NPS) appearing on the  Irish market.  FSI liaises with the European Monitoring Centre for Dangerous Drugs of Abuse (EMCDDA) based in Lisbon regarding new psychoactive substances appearing across Europe.

As part of our Service Level Agreement with An Garda Síochána, Forensic Science Ireland monitors the purity of the main illicit drugs in use in Ireland.  FSI monitors the purity of “bulk seizures” of cocaine, heroin and amphetamine by quantifying samples from all seizures of these drugs in packs weighing in excess of 25 grams.  FSI also monitors the purity of “street level” cocaine and heroin by analysing a representative sample of seizures of less than 25 grams.