Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 293 - Misuse of drugs [3004/16] [Z-drugs].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 293 - Misuse of drugs [3004/16] [Z-drugs]. (02 Feb 2016)

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293. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health his efforts to combat the sale and distribution of Z-drugs and the need for further resources to combat this major problem in conjunction with the long-awaited Misuse of Drugs Act; and the status of this legislation. [3004/16]


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): “Z-drugs” refers to a group of prescription medicines (zopiclone, zolpidem and zaleplon) which are used to treat insomnia, and which have the potential for misuse. The supply of prescription medicines is controlled in a number of ways.


Under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations, it is prohibited for a person to supply a prescription medicine except in accordance with a prescription, and the supply must be made from a registered pharmacy by or under the personal supervision of a registered pharmacist. A person who contravenes these Regulations is guilty of an offence.


Medicines which have a high potential to be misused are subject to additional and stricter controls under the Misuse of Drugs Acts. These medicines include z-drug zolpidem. The Misuse of Drugs Acts and Regulations impose restrictions on the production, supply, importation and exportation of controlled drugs. A person who has in his possession a prescription medicine containing a controlled drug for the purpose of selling or supplying it in contravention of the Misuse of Drugs legislation, is guilty of an offence under that legislation.


A Bill to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act so as to allow the Government to declare substances to be controlled and to clarify the provisions under which Ministerial orders and regulations are made is currently being drafted and is listed in the Government Legislative Programme for publication in 2016. This will once again allow regulations to be made and, if necessary and appropriate, bring under the scope of the Act new substances, including certain z-drugs, and allow the introduction of stricter or less strict controls on substances which are already covered under the legislation.


It is important to note that the problem of abuse of z-drugs will not be solved by regulations alone, and that prescribers need to ensure that these substances are only prescribed as appropriate.


The Health Product Regulatory Authority which is the competent authority in Ireland for human medicines, Revenue’s Customs service and an Garda Siochána work closely to prevent the unauthorised flow of illegal medicinal products into and out of the State. The enforcement of the law relating to the sale of drugs, including prescription drugs, continues to be a priority in the Government’s commitment to tackling the issue of drug misuse in this jurisdiction. Garda enforcement is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

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