Why we really need to talk about drugs

February 25th, 2024 10:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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A DISTRICT court judge is once again dealing with a number of cases of cocaine possession after a major sporting event which is held annually in Cork.

Such was his annoyance after the 2019 event, and the prevalence of drugs cases he was having to deal with, that he ordered the organisers to erect posters warning of the consequences of possessing illegal drugs.

Almost five years on, he is still dealing with such cases, so the postering of the location in the past year appears not to have had the impact he hoped. But then, looking at the issue in a wider context, illegal drugs seem to have infiltrated every element of Irish life. Statistics released this week by Kerry Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae were quite revealing.

The Road Safety Authority told him that, in cases of fatal road collisions where a toxicology test had been carried out, almost 20% had a positive test for either benzodiazepine or an opioid.

The most recent data (2015-2019) showed that 37% of driver fatalities with a toxicology result available had a positive toxicology for alcohol.

A total of 13% of driver fatalities, where a toxicology result was available, had a positive result for cocaine; 11% had a positive result for at least one benzodiazepine; 7% had a positive result for cannabis, and 7% had a positive result for at least one opioid.

There was a time when it was enough to try and educate drivers not to drink and drive over the legal limit, but we now need to double down on our efforts to ensure that we tackle the increasing scourge of driving with drugs in the system, the councillor noted.

A casual glance at any issue of this newspaper in recent years will reveal the proliferation of court cases where illegal drugs are a factor. But now we are also contending with a major influx of currently legal – but potentially dangerous – chemical compounds.

This was highlighted this week by a local TD who has called for a probe into ‘HHC’ vapes which are freely available to our young people. Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan said an Irish study has linked the semi-synthetic cannabis to cases of psychotic illness.

Deputy O’Sullivan’s call came after research documented two significant cases of psychotic episodes tied to the legal use of HHC, which is very easily bought in many vape shops and online, and is being consumed by very many of our young teenagers. He highlighted an incident in Cork where four teenagers suffered adverse reactions after vaping HHC, prompting warnings from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

‘In light of these findings, it is imperative that we delve deeper into the implications of HHC use and its legal status,’ Deputy O’Sullivan said.

This is a matter of public safety and health. The ease with which HHC can be obtained is a clear indication that our current laws are insufficient in protecting our youth from potential harm, he said.

The popularity of vaping amongst our young people has been ongoing for many years, with very little success in curbing it. It is such a shame when the smoking ban made such great strides in the health of the nation, that we are now contending with a new offender.

The man who brought in the smoking ban – current Tánaiste Micheál Martin – has described vaping as the tobacco industry’s ‘revenge’ for the smoking ban. And he made those remarks before synthetic cannabis became one of the main vapes of choice of our young people.

The full effects of the long-term inhaling of these chemicals has yet to be revealed, but many senior medics have been issuing warnings about the potential harmful effects of these devices.

Then there is also the obvious harm to the environment from discarded devices. Now we have the added threat to our young people of the consumption of synthetic cannabis through these devices, with many parents reporting worrying signs of addiction to HHC vapes by their teens.

It’s time we talked about drugs.

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