SOME head shops have resorted to illegally selling drugs for erectile dysfunction in order to survive.
The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has discovered that up to 15 head shops are dealing in prescription-only medicines.
Since the ban on so-called 'legal highs', the IMB has carried out a series of inspections at head shops to ensure that no outlawed products are on sale.
But officials have found that certain products now available in a number of the controversial stores have anaesthetic effects and may be considered to fall within the scope of the medicinal products legislation.
Inspectors have also raised concerns about the sale of two products containing medicinal substances, Fluorotropacocaine and Dimethocaine.
These have been found in the products Whack and Amplified but are not listed in the misuse of drugs regulations that were introduced earlier this year.
Health Minister Mary Harney has revealed that the IMB has visited 30 head shops in relation to these products. Six outlets had products that were found or suspected to contain substances with anaesthetic effect.
"The products concerned include RAZ, Snowblow, Pure NRG, Ivory Wave, Sextacy and White Ice and are suspected to contain the active pharmaceutical substance, Lidocaine [also known as Lignocain]," explained the minister in reply to a recent Dail question.
A total of 15 outlets have also been found to be supplying other medicinal products for abuse purposes.
These mainly involved substances that are contained in prescription-only medicinal products for erectile dysfunction, which are considered unauthorised.
"The Irish Medicines Board is currently finalising its investigations in these cases and will make a decision on further action," said Ms Harney.
She also noted that the IMB has already initiated prosecutions against four companies and one individual. A person convicted of illegally dealing in such products can be liable for a fine of up to €2,000 or a prison term of up to one year.
However, if the Director of Public Prosecutions were to take a more serious view of the offence, a Circuit Court judge could impose a €120,000 fine or a 10-year prison sentence.
Last month the Herald revealed that there are just 44 head shops still operating in the country.
At the height of their popularity there were 102 shops operating but the ban on most of their products saw sales plummet.
Since the introduction of new laws in April, gardai have sent files to the DPP in relation to 13 head shops. They have sought to bring forward charges including reckless endangerment. Gardai have submitted evidence that head shop assistants gave advice on consuming legal highs labelled not fit for human consumption.