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Women, young and old, in Dublin have turned to pushing pills on the street to put food on the table for their families.

The new drug of choice, and more affordable, are sleeping tables.

Zopiclone, a prescription sleeping tablet, is being sold to Dublin drug addicts by women who need the money.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian newspaper some of pushers speak on the record (under alias names) about their reasons for getting into the drug trade.

Sandra, a grandmother, is witnessed by The Guardian reporter selling sleeping pills to a heroin addict in Dublin city center.

He gives her money, she hands him over a packet of tablets that should keep him going through for a few days.

"Do you really think I want to be standing here every day selling these tablets to the addicts?" asks Sandra.

"I have never taken drugs in my life and I never thought I would ever be doing this."

Sandra lost her son to a drug overdose.

She tells The Guardian that she is still paying for the cost of his funeral.

"I'm doing it this week to buy a second-hand fridge while I'm still paying off the funeral debt.

"There is going to be a whole lot more women like me doing this ... it's going to get worse in Ireland before it gets better."

The tablets are being sourced from other countries and are still getting through Irish boarders.

The average cost a dealer is making on a weekly basis.. about $700..

Two and a half times they are also bringing home from social security payments.

Derek, a customer, explains why Sandra and women like her are so successful on a weekly basis.

"The doctor will only prescribe this amount to me for the entire week but I will go through this bag in one single night. I am HIV positive and have three ulcers on my leg. I can't sleep, especially if there is no brown [street slang for heroin] about in Dublin. These tabs help me get through the week."

The drugs will help Derek sleep for up to 15 hours he said.

Some of the women selling are themselves drug addicts, others just trying to put a few extra bob away for a rainy day but the bulk of them dealers are trying to pay their day to day bills and get enough money together to feed their families.

Mandy, another pusher, says, "It isn't just addicts feeding the habit, but girls who are in debt and even grannies. If you are not feeding your habit you can make up to €500 per week from the business."

Charities that work with addicts and the homeless say they are seeing a vast increase in the sale of drugs such as Zimovane (sleeping tablets) that come from China and Pakistan.

"While there is a heroin drought in Dublin, currently these other tablets are as common as Smarties. Obviously there is a concern about what exactly is in these legal drugs. They are not tested by the department of health. We are going to have to get our hands on some of these tablets and get them analysed because they are being sold in huge quantities. And this trade is going to get even bigger as the recession bites," said Tony Geoghegan, chief executive of the Merchant's Quay Project charity.