THE chairman of the Ennis Joint Policing Committee and organiser of the Clare Anti Headshop campaign, town councillor Paul O’Shea, has claimed that the ban on unregulated and unlicensed products sold in headshops has had limited success in reducing the problem of legal highs in Ennis..
The two headshops, Harmonisation and The Laughing Buddha, have remained closed in recent months, however, Councillor O’Shea and the committee say that they are remaining vigilant and informed, as their information is that headshop products are still available on the streets of Ennis, coming from a larger market in Limerick.
An increase in hospital admissions concerning headshop products in Dublin has been reported and a consultant psychiatrist working in addiction services in St John of God Hospital in Dublin says the advent of the drugs caused serious problems but the recent ban on headshop products hasn’t even reduced the problem. “Five years ago, cocaine was 100% of the problem but now it’s 50%, with the rest being made up of headshop drugs such as methadrone. We are about where we were before – dealing with a serious volume. It means that rather than destroying the market for drugs previously sold in the headshops, the drugs have simply moved onto the black market,” Dr Colin O’Gara commented.
Councillor O’Shea said that earlier this year the Clare Anti Headshop committee was successful in raising public awareness of the dangers of substances being sold at the two headshops in Ennis and in organising public protests that contributed to the closure of these shops. “We are lucky that no new shops have opened in Clare but we do have a headshop in neighbouring Limerick,” he added.
The councillor said that he was alarmed that new products such as Whack and Amplified have been found to contain medicinal substances (Flurotropacocaine and Dimethocaine) but are not listed in the misuse of drugs regulations that were introduced last May. “A recent inspection by the Irish Medicines Board on 30 headshop premises found that six outlets had products that contained substances with anaesthetic effects. It beggars belief that in this multi-million euro business, a person convicted of dealing in such products can be liable for a fine of €2,000 or a prison term of one year,” he said.
There are still 44 headshops in operation throughout the country and in the space of three weeks after the ban last May, researchers from Trinity College had identified nine new legal highs being sold at headshops.
“The ban has had limited effect on people still being admitted to hospital from consuming substances that cannot be identified. There is urgent need for a planning and development bill to be introduced requiring all headshops to have panning permission. This would also stop new headshops from opening,” the councillor commented.
Councillor O’Shea also said that he has spoken with drug addiction counsellors, who have informed him that it is widely believed many headshop owners bought large quantities of substances that were to be made illegal, prior to the ban.
It is believed that these substances are being sold now on the black market, including in Ennis. He added that the drug addiction service said there has been a reduction in calls in Clare but they do not feel that the problem has not gone away.