Monday 27 March 2017

Ban on drugs is failing, expert warns

Allison Bray

Allison Bray

THE seizure of more than €1m worth of head-shop drugs at the weekend shows the demand for once-legal highs hasn't diminished, according to a leading expert.

Gardai in Co Louth seized the massive quantity of former head-shop drugs following two planned searches at a residence in Dromiskin, near Dundalk, on Saturday.

A stun gun was also found during the search.

A 36-year-old man was questioned and released without charge, although a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

But Dr Chris Luke, a consultant in emergency medicine at Cork University Hospital, said there was still a huge demand for head-shop drugs despite legislation passed in May that made them illegal.

"The problem never went away," he told the Irish Independent last night.

Drugs that mimic the effect of cannabis and Class-A drugs like cocaine, ecstacy and amphetamines are now included in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. They include synthetic cannabinoids, benzylpiperazine, mephedrone, piperazine derivatives, flephedrone and MDPV.

A&E

Although the number of people presenting at A&E departments with psychotic and other adverse reactions to the drugs have decreased since the ban went into effect, the problem has not gone away, Dr Luke said.

"We're still seeing people coming in, although in smaller numbers," he said.

When head shops were operating, Dr Luke was treating an average of about five patients a week. Now he is seeing about two a week.

And frontline staff at the National Poison Information Centre at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital said they were continuing to get phone calls or referrals about overdoses or other adverse reactions to head-shop drugs, although they have dropped considerably since the ban was introduced.

The problem will not go away, however, as long as head-shop drugs are available for sale online, Dr Luke added.

Grainne Kenny, president of the group Europe Against Drugs, said anti-drugs campaigners never thought the ban of head shop drugs would solve the problem.

"The appetite for those drugs was well-established. But it's a positive story in that gardai now have the powers to seize and arrest," she said.

Irish Independent

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