Home > HSE awareness campaign on legal and illegal highs.

Lyons, Suzi (2010) HSE awareness campaign on legal and illegal highs. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 35, Autumn 2010, p. 21.

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Pat Carey TD, Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, launched the new HSE drug awareness campaign ‘Legal or illegal highs can cause serious health problems – they’re anything but safe’ in July 2010.1 The minister welcomed the campaign as an important part of the strategy against head shop drugs, alongside the ongoing legislative reform.  

Introducing the campaign, Ms Alice O’Flynn, HSE assistant national director for social inclusion, said that the risk to mental and physical health as a result of taking these substances was very real. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the ill effects in a series of messages highlighting the health risks, such as heart problems, kidney failure, impotence, seizures and paranoia.
Aimed primarily at people aged between 15 and 40 years, the campaign messages will be reproduced on posters and t-shirts,and in a Z-folded wallet card. They will also feature on radio ads, in cinemas, in’pop-ups’ on Facebook, inwashrooms in bars and clubs, and at festivals over the summer.The campaign was developed in consultation with all the key stakeholders, including the target audience.
There is also an information booklet for parents and guardians. The booklet explains what legal highs are and the current legal issues, and offers some basic advice on how to talk to your child about these drugs and what to do if they are using them. It includes information on harm reduction and on what to do if someone is having a bad reaction to a drug.
A range of presenters also spoke at the launch. Dr Una Geary, consultant in emergency medicine, spoke about her experience of treating young people who had taken head shop drugs. She spoke about the serious damage and harm that she had seen, ranging from cardiac problems to psychosis. Dr Eamon Keenan, consultant psychiatrist in addiction, spoke about addiction and psychological problems such as delusions and depression, and of the effect of the proliferation of head shop products on the addition services.
Other speakers included Tanya and Justin from the Voices of Youth organisation and Sinead O’Mahony Carey, HSE.  The website provides an online presence for the campaign. Andy Osborne explained how the website has been updated to include new information on legal and illegal highs and resources for young people and parents/guardians. The http://www.drugs.ie website also has a directory of counselling, education, treatment, rehabilitation and other services responding to problem drug and alcohol use throughout the country. Podcasts, videos of interviews with experts and other multimedia resources are also available on the site. The drugs helpline number is 1800 459 459. 
1. Carey P (2010, 7 July) Minister Pat Carey launches National Drugs Awareness Campaign. Press release issued by Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.

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