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Ban will put new drugs on black market warns expert

A DRUG abuse expert has warned that the banning of substances used to obtain 'legal highs' will push the materials into the black market instead.

His comments follow the announcement that a number of substances used to obtain a 'legal high' will be banned by the summer. The Cabinet approved proposals from Drugs Minister John Curran and Minister for Health Mary Harney to ban some of the most popular substances available in head shops.

But Dr Des Corrigan of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs said that he is personally against a regulated headshop system, adding it is "inevitable" that the drugs will end up being sold in an unregulated market.

"I think some of these products are so dangerous from what we know from the user reports that there's no way the regulatory authority would allow them on the market. So I think they're going to end up on the black market one way or the other, even if we had a regulated system," he explained.

"The same way as unfortunately when you bring them in under the Misuse of Drugs Act, somebody will put them on to the black market, that's inevitable. I think they're going to end up there anyway."

Dr Corrigan said that he agreed with the Government decision to ban the controversial substances as criminalising the materials sends out a "clear message" that these drugs are unsafe.

"I don't think it's a mistake, I think it's sending out a clear message to young people that these materials are not safe, because a lot of them think that these materials have been legalised with the use of this phrase, 'legal highs', where nobody has actually certified these chemicals as being safe or of good quality.

"The Government has sent out, quite rightly, a clear message that these chemicals are not safe," Dr Corrigan said.

The substances which will be removed from the head shops shelves include synthetic cannabinoids, better known as 'Spice' products, BZP derivatives, mephedrone -- the fourth most popular club drug -- which is better known as 'Snow' or 'Blow', methlyone and related cathinones.

Ketamine, which is also used as a horse tranquiliser, will be banned too, as will GBL and 1,4BD, better known as liquid ecstasy.

Tapentadol and "certain narcotic and psychotropic substances" will also be illegal.

Dr Corrigan added that some of the substances currently being sold in head shops and lined up for the ban are more dangerous than already illegal drugs.

"I think the ones that present the most immediate threat to public health would be the cathinones and some of the synthetic cannabinoids because some of the synthetic cannabinoids in laboratory tests are about 100 times more powerful than the main chemical in cannabis -- THC," he said.