Home > The great Irish head shop controversy.

Ryall, Graham and Butler, Shane (2011) The great Irish head shop controversy. Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy , 18 , (4) , pp. 303-311.

This research describes and analyses recent policy developments in Ireland in relation to the practice of selling psychoactive substances which, while not themselves illegal, mimic the effects of commonly used illegal drugs. These so-called ‘legal highs’ had been sold in Ireland through an increasing number of ‘head shops’ which in late 2009 and early-2010 became the subject of considerable public controversy, culminating in legislative measures aimed at their closure. Based on semi-structured interviews with some of the main stakeholders in this process and set against a background of saturation media coverage of this phenomenon, this article presents and assesses competing perspectives on the head shop issue.

From a conventional drug control perspective, recent legislative measures in Ireland may be seen as representing effective cross-cutting activity between the health and criminal justice sectors. From a harm reduction perspective, however, this policy response may be seen as an example of moral panic in that media portrayals greatly exaggerated the ill effects of head shop products, in the process stoking public anger rather than encouraging rational debate.


Item Type:Article
Date:2011
Page Range:pp. 303-311
Publisher:Informa healthcare
Volume:18
Number:4
EndNote:View
Subjects:B Drugs and alcohol substances > New (novel) psychoactive substances
L Social psychology and related concepts > Social context > Context encouraging drugs and alcohol use
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Policy > Policy on drugs and alcohol
L Social psychology and related concepts > Legal availability or accessibility

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