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[Health Service Executive] HSE Launches Drugs Awareness Campaign. (07 Jul 2010)

Legal or illegal highs can cause serious health problems - they’re anything but safe’

The HSE has unveiled a new national campaign on the dangers of legal and illegal drugs. The campaign, which was launched today by the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs; Pat Carey, T.D. is entitled ‘Legal or illegal highs - they’re anything but safe’. The campaignis seeking to raiseawareness of the dangers and significant negative mental and physical health effects that can be caused by these psychoactive substances.

Along with recent legislation introduced by the Government prohibiting the sale or supply of psychoactive substances, this public awareness campaign forms an important part of tackling what has become a serious public health issue.

The campaign features a number of important messages which illustrate the ill-effects that can be caused by these substances. Legal or illegal highs can cause paranoia; impotence; kidney failure; heart problems; seizures, deathor make you act like a fool - they’re anything but safe. These messages will feature on radio ads, in cinemas, washrooms in bars and clubs and at festivals over the summer.

The website has been updated to include new information in relation to the campaign and legal and illegal highs including information resources for young people and parents/guardians.The HSE Drugs Helpline on 1800 459 459 is also available to support the campaign.

Launching the HSE Drugs Awareness campaign, the Minister for Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, T.D. commented; “Since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, I have been working with my colleagues in Government to address the issue of headshops and the psychoactive substances they sell. This Campaign forms an important element in the Government's multi-pronged approach targeting the activities of head shops. By educating the people of the dangers of these substances and providing accurate and factual information, they will be in a better position to really consider the risks factors associated with the consumption of these substances and thus inform their actions.”

Alice O’Flynn, HSE Assistant National Director for Social Inclusion, said; “The risks to people’s mental and physical health as a result of taking these substances is very real. Changes in legislation have helped to limit the sale and supply of these substances however, there are always other means by which young people will come into contact with drugs – whether through friends or online.

This is part of a multi-pronged approach to tackling this issue which is putting young people at risk and causing anxiety to families throughout the country. As part of this, the HSE has an important role to play in informing the public about the risks around legal and illegal highs. This campaign lets young people and parents know that legal or illegal highs are anything but safe and provides important information for them in relation to these substances.  We want to ensure that information and supports are available also to parents to help them understand the dangers associated with legal and illegal drugs and how they might encourage and support their teenagers to avoid them."

‘Legal or illegal highs’ and ‘head shop or herbal highs’ are names given to psychoactive substances (drugs) that are on sale in Ireland through shops that sell drug-related products (head shops, hemp shop) or over the internet. These drugs are sold as alternatives to drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, amphetamines and heroin.

There are several hundred types of these drugs available which include:

  • sedatives (downers) e.g. spice, smoke, smoke plus
  • stimulants (uppers) e.g. mephedrone, snow, blow
  • hallucinogens (trips) e.g. trip to night
  • aphrodisiacs (sexual stimulants) e.g. volcanic capsule, spun, Spanish fly

Some are herbal, meaning they come from a plant. Others are synthetic, meaning they are man-made from chemicals. Most are a mixture of both herbal and synthetic products.

These drugs are all psychoactive substances, which act on the central nervous system andalter how you think, feel and behave. As an adult there are a number of steps you can take to help protect young people.

Parents/guardians can inform themselves by checking out trusted sources of information such as the website, by attending information events or calling the HSE Drugs Helpline 1800 459 459. Parents are encouraged to talk to young people and share the information you have with them, discuss the dangers for their long-term health and well-being. If parents do this their children can make choices based on the facts, and an understanding of the actual dangers to physical and mental health.

  •  Know the facts about drugs
  • Monitor credit card transactions if you fear your children may be buying drugs online
  • Be responsible for their safety; know where a young person is going when they leave the house and who they are with
  • Be around and awake when a young person comes home or where possible collect them from events
  • Discuss drugs openly
  • Be around to listen – talk to them about the issues and dangers of legal or illegal highs
  • Be assertive –saying ‘no’ is ok if you believe a situation is not suitable
  • Watch out for side-effects and know your young person
  • Be the parent, they have lots of friends

The HSE National Drug Awareness Campaign will tie in with initiatives at community level co-ordinated by the local and regional Drugs Task Forces.



Call: HSE Drugs Helpline 1800 459 459

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