Irish ban ‘closed all legal high shops’

Ireland’s blanket ban on new psychoactive drugs has led to the end of the country’s legal high industry, the BBC has been told by police.

Around 100 legal high stores, known as headshops, existed before the law was passed, but none are still in business, BBC News said.

Detective Superintendent Tony Howard, a senior officer in the Irish police’s Drugs Unit, told of the concern that had existed for a “whole generation of young people” experimenting with the substances.

Mimic illegal drugs

But he said the industry has accepted and complied with the legislation, which was introduced five years ago.

In the UK legal highs are available on the high street and online. They mimic the effects of illegal drugs and have been linked with scores of deaths.

A Bill to ban all legal highs in the UK was launched by the Westminster Government last month, and is similar to the Irish legislation.

The Irish law made it illegal to advertise, sell, supply, import or export psychoactive drugs.

Handed over

Det Supt Howard said: “We were worried because we saw a whole generation of young people starting to experiment with these new psychoactive substances, and they’d generally be people who wouldn’t have otherwise engaged in the misuse of drugs”.

He added that people thought the drugs were safe.

Commenting on the headshop industry, which he said is now “gone”, he explained: “Essentially the industry themselves realised that the legislation was quite strong and they actually co-operated with us and handed us over any residual product which they had”.


Currently in the UK, individual legal highs are banned on a case-by-case basis, but the new Westminster legislation would introduce a blanket ban on all such substances.

Home Office minister Mike Penning said the Bill would “put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them”.

When it launched the new Bill, the Government said there were 120 deaths involving new psychoactive substances in England, Scotland and Wales in 2013.