A super-strength MDMA pill that is three times stronger than ecstasy could be available for children to buy on Snapchat.
Parents are being warned to be aware of the dangerously high dosage drug which is being sold at pocket-money prices, especially after a Wirral teenager is believed to have died after taking it.
'Loving and caring' Bethany Devlin-McCrone, 14, was found dead after police were called to a house in Greasby, Wirral in the early hours of Wednesday, July 25, reports The Liverpool Echo.
Merseyside Police said it is believed the Hilbre High School pupil died after an 'adverse reaction' to a controlled drug, though the results of toxicology tests are still awaited.
Now fears have emerged that pupils at the school have been buying the pills, reported as containing a high dose, for as little as £5 each.
But what is the tablet, and what do parents need to know?
What do they look like?
Like many "brands" of ecstasy tablets, the Punisher pills have a distinctive colour, shape and marking.
Triangular in shape, the pills are a distinctive blue colour that can be quite common for MDMA.
The Punisher pills bear the skull mask logo of the Marvel character, The Punisher.
What are they made of?
The blue bills contain a very high dosage of MDMA, or methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, also known as Ecstasy or Molly.
It is a synthetic drug that became popular in the nightclub and rave scenes or the late eighties and nineties.
Punisher pills reportedly are three times as strong as regular ecstasy pills with drug awareness charity The Loop claiming that the tablets contain 300mg of MDMA.
What effects can they have?
MDMA can alter people's moods and perception and is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens.
The tablets can produce feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception - according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
The drug increases the activity of brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, causing positive and pleasurable feelings.
When abused or taken in high quantities however, MDMA and Punisher pills can cause extreme illness and in extreme cases, even death.
In May, two people died after taking ecstasy while attending Portsmouth's Mutiny Festival.
A number of clubbers also collapsed in Bournemouth in March after taking the synthetic drug.
Police said the pair were treated for "serious side effects" sparking fears that a gang was peddling the high dosage stimulant in the town's clubland.
How are people buying them?
The majority of reports of Punisher pills being sold are through traditional channels.
A number of finds were made at festivals across the country where drug dealers will sneak them in and sell them.
There is now fears that as younger children become more aware of the drugs, that dealers will find new ways to market it.
One teenager told the ECHO that some people have even been buying them off Snapchat, for as little as £5 each.
The teen said: “It is really easy to get hold of. You just ask the older kids and they will give you (a dealer's) Snapchat or a number.”
How to tell if your child has bought or taken the Punisher and what to do
Drug awareness website Narconon lists a number of signs to look out for if you believe your child has bought or is using MDMA.
Parents should look out for small, coloured pills in pockets or bags that bear logos and look like sweets.
Signs of MDMA usage could include an irregular sleeping schedule or a lack of pain awareness.
If your child becomes unwell and you suspect they might be under the influence of the Punisher you should take them to hospital immediately and inform police so they can investigate where the drugs have come from.
Advice from police
Officers from Merseyside Police have advised parents on what they should do to avoid any more children falling victim to drugs.
Last week Chief inspector Nick Gunatilleke told the Echo: “We would ask every single parent, talk to your children.
“When they are having sleepovers, when they are with their friends, when they are going to parties, when they are going to the park, talk to your children. Give them the confidence to say no...
“We've heard in the past that young children will split a pill in half because they think that will make them safe.
"What we would say is that you do not know what is in that drug.
“You do not know what effect it is going to have on your body.
“There is no such thing as a safe way to take illegal drugs and we need parents to speak to their children and say 'these are the risks'.
“Life changing injuries, life changing consequences and sadly in this case, a death.”