Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 765 - National drugs strategy [13555/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 765 - National drugs strategy [13555/16]. (31 May 2016)

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765. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if there has been any evaluation by his Department of the outcome of the policy approach taken to banning head shops and the drugs that were sold in them. [13555/16]


Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): In response to the proliferation of head shops in Ireland between 2007 and 2010, and the widespread availability of new psychoactive substances through these outlets, Government initiated a multi-pronged approach to target the activities of head shops and the sale of unregulated psychoactive substances in Ireland.


 The Misuse of Drugs legislation is the primary means of regulating psychoactive substances. Under this legislation and regulations made thereunder, over 200 substances (legal highs) were controlled by means of statutory instruments in May 2010 and a further 60 in November 2011. Substances were controlled either by means of individual names or by means of generic definition.


 Experience has shown that new psychoactive substances can quickly emerge and there will always be a time lag before such new substances can be made subject to control under the Misuse of Drugs Acts. Accordingly, the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 was introduced as a general criminal justice measure to deal with new psychoactive substances as they emerge, making it a criminal offence to sell, import or export, for human consumption, a psychoactive substance which was not regulated or controlled under other legislation. The Act works in tandem with the ongoing controlling of specified substances under the Misuse of Drugs Acts and continues in place as supporting legislation to the Misuse of Drugs Legislation. On foot of these two pieces of legislation nearly all of the over 100 head shops then existing were closed in 2010. The legislative actions above were taken in tandem with education and awareness-raising initiatives informing of the potential dangers of the use of psychoactive substances.


 While there has been no formal evaluation of the approach taken, a study by researchers in Trinity College Dublin published in June 2015 has shown a significant reduction in both recent and problematic use among young people of novel psychoactive substances in the year after the Government introduced legislative changes targeting the sale and supply of such substances. The researchers acknowledge that the study cannot prove a causal relationship between the closure of the head shops and reductions in NPS use by these adolescents, however their findings have shown that the implementation of legislation, targeted primarily at the vendors of NPS, coincided with a fall in NPS use among this high risk group of teenagers who attend a drug and alcohol treatment service.


 The results of the most recent General Population drugs prevalence survey for 2014/15, which will be released by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol later this year, will provide up-to-date data on the prevalence of NPS use in the population.

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