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USI launch second phase of drugs info campaign

On March 20th the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) released the second phase of their ongoing campaign focused on informing students & young people of safe drug usage. The campaign runs in conjunction with the HSE and drugs.ie, and is primarily aimed at those using New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). The second phase concerns itself particularly with the use of synthetic cannabinoids and mephedrone.  Use of these and other psychoactive drugs in Ireland is the highest in Europe among 15-24 year-olds, and at a stark 22% for lifetime users. The campaign comes as recent studies suggest that these illicit substances are increasing in potency, and that the market for NPS is becoming more accessible to young people in Ireland.

Synthetic cannabinoids, sold under the names ‘Spice’ and ‘Clockwork Orange’ in Ireland, are substances that imitate the effects of cannabis, but have the potential to be as much as 100 times more powerful. A report in 2016 established that 60% of all NPS seizures in Europe resulted from the use of synthetic cannabinoids. Mephedrone is a chemical, commonly referred to as ‘bath salts’, with similar effects to ecstasy and cocaine, and has a relatively short-lived span of action that increases risk of overdose from repeated dosing. Ireland boasts a rate above the already high European average rate, with three-quarters of NPS presentations to accident and emergency departments resulting from the use of cathinone drugs. The substances are also linked to mental health problems, self harm, and suicide.

The initial phase of the campaign ran in November of 2016 and concentrated primarily on MDMA (ecstasy) and ketamine. “The harm reduction messages in this campaign are paramount: ultimately to reduce harm and to ensure that people who choose to take NPS are aware of the importance of testing in small doses, taking NPS in safe controlled environments, and taking time out between sessions,” said Annie Hoey, USI President.

USI is delighted to continue working with the HSE and Drugs.ie on this harm reduction campaign. We have been working hard this year to provide information to students and our Unions to highlight the effects associated with New Psychoactive Substance misuse.

– Annie Hoey, USI President.

HSE National Clinical Lead for Addiction Services, Dr Eamonn Keenan, added:  “A key component of this message is to look after yourself and look out for your friends. These drugs have no form of regulation or quality control and the purity, strength and effects vary widely from batch-to- batch. Mental health problems can be caused or worsened by these drugs and if you do decide to use them then do not mix with alcohol or other drugs and do not take them alone. If a friend is suffering an adverse reaction seek help and contact the emergency services immediately.”

The campaign urges anyone affected by the issues it addresses to call the HSE Drug/Alcohol Helpline at Freephone 1800 459 459 between 9:30 and 5:30 Monday to Friday, go to www.drugs.ie or email helpline@hse.ie. It is essential to be aware that drug usage becomes more risky if the user has physical or mental health problems, and it is always safer not to partake in the use of illicit substances.