Irish teens the biggest users of legal highs
The EU yesterday announced a clampdown on legal highs as a study revealed Irish teenagers to be the biggest users in Europe.
The survey, conducted for the European Commission, found that 16pc of Irish 15- to 24-year-olds have taken drugs that mimic the effects of cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy, compared to an EU average of 5pc.
The move comes as 41 new substances were flagged by regulators last year on the EU's drugs alert system, a record number since it was set up in 2005.
"New synthetic drugs are becoming widely available at an unprecedented pace in Europe. They can be toxic, addictive and have long-term adverse effects," said EU justice chief Viviane Reding.
"We need to act at EU level and protect our children."
A total of 115 new drugs have arrived on the EU market since 2005. The Commission says that most are manufactured in Asia and are much cheaper than traditional illegal drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy. Many can be bought online.
Last December, the EU called for a continent-wide ban on mephedrone, an ecstasy-like drug also known as MCAT or meow meow, after it was linked to 39 deaths -- 37 of them in the UK and Ireland.
A problem for regulators is that once risky drugs have been identified, a replacement can be manufactured and placed back on the market even before they finish testing it.
The European Commission says it will bring in new rules in the autumn to speed up the alert system, these will include the possibility of banning drugs temporarily while they are being probed for harmful effects.