Ireland has highest use of psychoactive drugs in Europe: survey

17:23, July 12, 2011      

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A survey by the European Commission suggests that Ireland has registered the highest level of usage of new synthetic drugs among young Europeans.

The commission's survey findings suggest that 16 percent of young people in Ireland have used the drugs compared to a European average of 5 percent. A total of 9 percent have tried the drugs in Poland and Latvia, 8 percent in Britain and 7 percent in Luxembourg, according to the latest Eurobarometer poll.

The survey's fieldwork was carried out during three days in May with the objective to study young European Union (EU) citizens' attitudes to, and perceptions about, drugs and related issues. Over 12,000 randomly selected young people aged 15 to 24 were interviewed across the 27 EU member states.

The commission describes the rise in synthetic drugs, such as mephedrone, as "alarming." These drugs have been sidestepping normal laws because the chemicals involved are not individually banned.

Synthetic drugs are often purchased over the internet or sold in headshops. In July 2010, the Irish government introduced new measures to criminalize the sale of legal highs. Minister for Health at the time, Mary Harney, announced a criminal ban on a list of these drugs.

The ban makes it illegal to buy or sell mephedrone, spice products and substances which mimic cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.

A new criminal law also made it illegal to sell hallucinogenic products in Ireland and gave police power to seek a court order to close legal high shops suspected of selling drug-like products.

According to the survey, a large majority of 15 to 24 year-olds across all 27 EU member states are in favor of banning these substances.

Last year, 41 new drugs were notified to the authorities compared to just 24 in 2009 and there have been new 115 notifications in total since 2005. They included a plant-based substance, synthetic derivatives of well-established drugs, and so-called "designer drugs." These substances imitate the effects of drugs such as ecstasy or cocaine and are sold legally.

"The drugs, which can be just as dangerous as banned substances, are often sold over the internet and in specialist shops," the commission said.

It also said, new psychoactive substances are becoming widely available in Europe at "an unprecedented pace," so it planned to strengthen these rules "to prevent such unsafe substances from being sold freely on the market."

Source: Xinhua
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