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HSE Launches Drugs Awareness Campaign

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 campaign is seeking to raise awareness 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 the 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 systemandalter 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.


Further information/to arrange media interviews contact:

HSE National Press Office

Tel: 01 6352840


Posted by Administrator on 07/07 at 01:17 PM in Legal and illegal highs
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(5) Comments


#1. Posted by Policy Change on July 07, 2010

They’re a lot less safe now they’ve been banned and are sold by criminals instead of head-shops.

#2. Posted by Make Sense on December 26, 2010

Why are nicotine or alcohol not considered drugs on this list? They cause more deaths than any of the drugs mentioned here (many of which have not been proven to have caused any deaths).

Instead, we’re promoting alcohol and nicotine to our youth.

#3. Posted by Legalise on December 26, 2010

Can get it off drug dealers now for twice the price with zero tax.

#4. Posted by Florian Scheibein on December 26, 2010

“People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution”
Antonio Costa(UNODC Executive Director)

The only way to solve the current drug problem is through strict regulation.  The current misguided stradegy results in an unregulated market(there is a EU lifetime prevalence of over 3 % for xtc, over 3% for cocaine and 20% for cannabis), which means that this substantial population is subject to unpure drugs(which results in death, damage etc.)and which means that domestic and international criminal networks make billions in tax free money, that is funneled into other criminal activity(prostitution, weapons etc.) The price increases and the user becomes poorer, increasing socioeconomic risk of addiction.

The toxicomaniac is not a criminal but likely a distraught, psychologically damaged individual.  PTSD, depression and anxiety and are all tied to toxicomania.  The sad reality is that toxicomania and infact polytoxicomania are likely to burden the human race for the entirety of its duration.

How can we solve this? Firstly, create a Narcotics department and necessary legislation to allow it to operate.  This department would aim to monitor the drug consumption of every drug user,review drug use and impact on life and aim to treat addiction.  Supply would be through licensed Guarda vetted vendors that have training in dealing/managing toxicomania in co-operation with the department.  The drugs would be produced within the country, under Guarda Siochana observation, and sold to the user at a price that at the beginning atleast would monopolize supply.  A Narcotic card could then be used to allow for personal drug possession.  Such card should also allow for the growing of cannabis, and magic mushrooms.  Different classifications A, B, C, D etc. could be placed on the card, a short drug risk test could be completed before the clearing of a classification(i.e. to prevent and/or reduce harms.

At first heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine would not be covered under the scheme but needles, purity tests and help should be given freely.  This would substantially decrease harms such as the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C for which there is not immunisation currently. Such policies would be evalulated in the future.

Anyone consuming drugs not falling under this scheme, would be automatically subjected to drug rehabilitation and monitoring.  Not doubt at first it will appear that drug consumption has increased(as the vast majority of estimates are unrealistic) but then this would undoubtely fall like Portugal and Holland where the focus is on education rather than incarceration.

The movement of cannabis, psilocybin, lsd and ibogaine and mdma to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulation would allow for its use in medicine and for further study through IMB licensing structures.  Ibogaine shows promise for addiction, mdma is currently in Phase 2 FDA approved trials for PTSD, and lsd and psilocybin have been used successfully for cluster headaches, near death anxiety, alcoholism and a whole host of other conditions. 

This is likely to be the only answer to controlling drug use.  Remember, prohibition.  Its easier for young people to buy drugs than alcohol and cigarettes and this is only because of regulation.  The control of consciousness is in the hands of criminals, terrorists and not in the hands of those that should not share a vested interest in the healths of the toxicomaniac patients involved.

#5. Posted by Jon Rogan on December 28, 2010

Take the drug trade out of the criminals hands, requlate the manufacture of drugs to prevent nasty contaminants, educate people on responsible drug use instead of scare tactics and ignorance. STOP making criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens who wish to take drugs RESPONSIBLY.

The actions will do a lot more good for Irish citizens than the futile war on drugs which has been proven to be a massive failure.





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