THE crackdown on head shops is to intensify with a new study set to identify the ingredients in products still on sale.
The Government has commissioned research into head shop substances and the effects they have on those who use them. The move follows the removal last month of dozens of psychoactive products banned under recent legislation. Many head shops closed overnight.
But a review of head shop substances to begin shortly could lead to the prohibition of other 'legal highs' and the closure of more shops.
Researchers will visit all head shops nationwide over the summer to examine products on sale and compare their labelling to their actual chemical content.
For the first time, information on the number and location of head shops will be gathered, making it easier for gardai and customs officers to police their activities.
Focus groups made up of those who have experienced head shop 'legal highs' will be formed to get first-hand accounts of how the substances affect mood and mental functioning.
Researchers will also look at internet sites to assess how easy it is for users to get hold of psychoactive substances.
Risk factors associated with head shop products will be assessed and suggestions put forward on how they can be minimised.
Meanwhile, staff at A&E units will be surveyed about their experiences of dealing with such patients.
A final report is expected by the end of August. Its findings could then be used to close any loopholes in the law.
A range of drugs were banned at the start of the month, including mephedrone, BZP derivatives and synthetic cannabinoids which are often sold as 'spice'. However, a range of new substances, such as MDAI and NRG-1, have already emerged to fill this gap.
It had been estimated that over 100 head shops were operating in Ireland. However, anti-drug campaigners believe that many of these have closed down in the last month.
The €25,000 review was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs.
Since the ban, gardai and customs' officers have been monitoring head shops to ensure they are not selling illegal products.