Consultants highlight dangers of head shop substances
MEDICAL consultants yesterday highlighted the dangers of psychoactive substances as gardai continue to keep watch on the 26 head shops still open across the country.
Senior officers said they are continuing to monitor the shops, but emphasised there was no evidence at present to indicate that any illegal substances were being sold there.
Nationwide checks carried out by gardai yesterday indicated that three shops were still open in Dublin city centre while another was trading in Tallaght.
Four remain in business in Galway, while other open head shops are located in Cork city and county, Killarney, Portlaoise, Tullamore, Co Kildare, Limerick, Drogheda, Carrick-on-Shannon, Clonmel, Wexford and Kilkenny.
Gardai said that their checks had not yet been completed and they were awaiting reports from a number of divisions around the country.
The regular garda calls to the shops are being backed up by visits from undercover detectives who are being deployed to make purchases from the shops and then bring in the substances for forensic tests.
Shop owners found in breach of the new legislation, which was enacted on Monday morning, face possible prosecution and if found guilty of a criminal offence can be jailed for up to five years.
Spot checks are also being carried out by plainclothes gardai on the streets to prevent suspected illegal "highs" being sold outside the head shops.
The announcement of the enactment of the legislation by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern on Monday was "warmly welcomed" last night by consultants working in hospital emergency departments.
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said its members' departments across the State continued to see the immediate toxic and psychiatric effects of illicit psychoactive agents, including those available before, and after, the publication in May of a list of 200 banned products.
It pointed out that the continuing access to the illegal "highs" since May and the online availability of a broad range of illegal psychoactive products remained a cause for concern.
"These highly dangerous substances are similar to many of the psychoactive 'street drugs', which have been illegal for many years," the association said.
The consultants warned that the permanent effects of those drugs were so far unknown but the likelihood was that many would give rise to persistent long-term health problems.