A senior member of the Drug Squad in the Westmeath division is warning parents about the dangers of head shops.
Speaking to the Advertiser, the senior officer says Gardaí are aware the drugs available in the shops “are extremely psychoactive and have extreme results on people”.
“It’s up to parents – the shops are there. Keep away from them, they’re not there for your health,” the garda warns.
Parents have contacted gardaí, concerned about the effects of products bought by their children at head shops, but because the products, although dangerous, are not individually outlawed, there is little law enforcers can do.
“I would be the first to close them down if I had the law to do it,” says the officer who has been at hospitals when young people have needed medical attention after taking so-called ‘legal highs’.
Are parents worried? “Of course they are.”
“All drugs are designed to have some effect on the central nervous system,” he says. “If it alters your state of mind, it can’t be good, it’s going to cause problems.”
“You have young people who are up the walls, not even knowing where they are,” he adds, commenting on how gardaí have dealt with situations where young people are “uncontrollable” because of the effects of a litany of products on sale over the counter.
The effects of substances which can be bought in the county’s head shops, two in Mullingar and two in Athlone, can be seen “in young persons in their mental state when they’re arrested on public order offences,” says the garda, who has considerable experience dealing with drugs in the county.
The effects are even worse when products are combined with alcohol, he says, pointing out that because the products are not regulated, there are no hygiene guarantees relating to their preparation.
“A lot come with warnings, an indication of what they’re capable of doing.”
One of the products which has gained notoriety in the national media is a bath salt which is not officially supposed to be taken internally but is being used by young people to give a ‘legal’ high.
The garda’s concerns were shared at a recent conference held in Mullingar about head shops, organised by the Regional Drugs Task Forces.
Dr Des Corrigan, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs said that “Whilst the Government may be reviewing strategies to regulate head shops, it was very clear that local communities and drugs projects nationally still have major concerns.”