Westmeath County Council is to seek the support of local authorities across the country in a campaign to ban ‘party pills’, following a motion raised by Cllr Frankie Keena at this week’s council meeting.
Cllr Keena is calling for the drug BZP, which is sold legally in several so-called ‘head shops’ in Athlone and Mullingar, to be outlawed by the Government.
The councillor raised the motion in an effort to highlight to parents the fact that the drug BZP, commonly known as ‘the party pill’, is being openly sold in a number of shops throughout the county.
“Under the present legislation the Gardai cannot do anything about it,” he said.
“Now unfortunately we are faced with ruthless people exploiting a legal loophole by selling this drug and associated products that are conducive to the use of illegal drugs.”
As chairman of the Athlone Drug Awareness Group, Cllr Keena is anxious to put pressure on the Government to close this legal loophole by introducing legislation and criminal sanctions regarding the drug. Although an EU decision in March 2008 placed BZP under control measures, and eight member states have already acted on this, Ireland has only until the end of March this year to outlaw the drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977.
He particularly stressed the addictive nature of BZP, which is a synthetic stimulant drug with the chemical name benzylipiperazine.
“This is a dangerously addictive drug, and is freely available to and targeted at young people, who are the most vulnerable and impressionable people in our communities,” said Cllr Keena.
While a 50-200 mg dose of the drug can lead to a sense of increased alertness, enhancing the sense of taste, sound, and colour, users report an inability to sleep for as long as 10 hours after the effects have subsided. BZP can also leave users with symptoms similar to a hangover, such as headache, fatigue, reduced appetite, nausea, and possible memory loss. Tolerance to the substance also develops, which means the user increasingly needs more to get the same effect.
Offering Cllr Keena their unanimous support, councillors expressed outrage that these ‘party pills’ are being allowed to circulate legally.
Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Joe Whelan, pointed out that the Government has yet to act on the recommendation of leading toxicologist Dr Des Corrigan that the drug be banned; “I have seen the end product of this issue through my work with the HSE. People addicted to drugs end up with many other issues. It is a very serious matter, and we need to lobby for action sooner rather than later.”
Cllr Pat McLoughlin, who last year raised a motion at a Mullingar Area meeting for the ‘head shops’ to be closed down, said that the people who run the shops need to be taken to task. “Young people have died because of these drugs. They are the greatest cause of depression and the stepping stone to harder drugs. There will be antisocial behaviour on an enormous scale if they are allowed to continue,” he said.