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Ocean Snow - information and advice

Ocean Snow is a substance sometimes sold as a 'legal high' in Northern Ireland. Find out how it can affect the body and the signs which may suggest someone has taken it.

What is Ocean Snow?

While Ocean Snow is sometimes sold as a 'legal high', this is misleading because where this substance has been seized and tested it has contained a varying range of already banned substances.

Therefore by buying this substance, not only are people risking their health, they are also risking being prosecuted and getting a criminal record for drug possession.

What does 'legal high' mean?

Generally speaking the term 'legal high' is misleading, as most of these substances are regulated by the Medicines Act which makes it illegal to sell, supply or advertise for human consumption.

The 'legal high' substances are generally bought from head shops or internet sites.

Many retailers use descriptions such as bath salts or plant food, claiming they are “not intended for human consumption" as a way of getting round the drug laws.

In addition, products such as Ocean Snow are sold under a variety of names with no ingredients listed on the package – therefore people have no way of knowing what they are taking and many of these packets when tested are shown to contain illegal substances.

Further information on 'legal highs' is available on the Public Health Agency website at the link below:

What does Ocean Snow looks like?

Products like Ocean Snow are usually white powders or tablets which can be swallowed, rubbed on gums or snorted.

How do these substances affect the body?

Because these drugs are so new, and there is no way of confirming what many of these packets contain, very little is know about them and their long-term effects.

It is understood that Ocean Snow has similar negative effects to mephedrone, including:

  • nose bleeds
  • heart palpitations
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • teeth/ jaw grinding
  • skin rashes
  • aggression
  • depression
  • suicidal/ self-harm feelings, particularly when 'coming down' from the drug

As production of these drugs is not regulated, and the fact that what is sold under a given name one week may have a very different make-up next week, the effects are unpredictable.

Another concern is that people who use 'legal highs' may mix them with other substances such as alcohol or prescription drugs, and there is no information what effects these combinations may have on the body.

What to look out for

It can be difficult to tell if a young person has taken the drug, but there are a range of possible things to be aware of, including:

  • sudden and regular changes of mood
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of interest in school, hobbies, sport, friends
  • evidence of lying or other secretive behaviour
  • money or objects going missing
  • unusually tired
  • unable to sleep at night
  • sudden appearance of new friends
  • bouts of talkative, excitable and overactive behaviour

You may also come across possible evidence of drug use which may include:

  • 'wraps' (square folds of paper which may have contained powder)
  • small plastic bags, cling film and foil used to package small quantities of drugs
  • empty boxes of 'plant food' or 'bath salts'

What to do in an emergency

If somebody is unconscious, it is important to put them in the recovery position and ring for an ambulance. When you call the ambulance tell them that the person is unconscious.

When the ambulance arrives, it is important that you tell the ambulance crew what they have taken, as this information could save their life.

If you are concerned that your child is at risk of suicide or self-harming you should ring the 24/7 crisis helpline, Lifeline:

  • telephone: 0808 808 8000


FRANK is the national drugs helpline offering free, confidential information and advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call FRANK on 0800 77 66 00 or text a question on 82111.

The cost of sending a text to FRANK is the same as a standard text message, which will depend on your network tariff. Information and advice is also available via the website.

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