‘Legal high’ drugs causing psychiatric illness epidemic, says A&E doctor

A LEADING Emergency Department consultant has warned legal drugs, which are replacing cocaine and amphetamines and sold in alternative lifestyle shops, are causing an “epidemic of psychiatric illness”.

Dr Chris Luke, who specialises in emergency medicine at Cork University Hospital, said it seemed as though there was no other solution but to have head shops closed down by hugely increasing their public insurance policy.

“These shops are creating misery, they must be made to pay for the huge problems they are causing to society,” he said.

The anti-drugs campaigner said it was an absolute mystery to him how someone could sell so-called “bath salts” without being checked or regulated.

“There has been a proliferation of these shops because of a technical loophole. There is no health and safety or commercial regulation. If you think of stringent laws applied to all outlets and even off-licences – these are seriously dangerous drugs, yet there is no state regulation. The reason is that they are making so much money.”

Dr Luke said young people were wandering around the streets in a psychotic state.

“Somebody is going to come to terrible harm. It seems the only way we learn is when we have deaths.”

Dr Luke said while it took other legal drugs about 20 years to get to the market because of rigorous tests, these drugs had not gone through any testing.

He said a simple change to molecule structure was what was allowing them to remain outside the law.

“One of biggest sources of crystal meth is from labs in Asia and Eastern Europe. These are the same sources that are producing head shop drugs,” he said.

“They are come in alluring packing, and teenagers think there is nothing wrong with them.”

Dr Luke said there had been an “explosive increase” in adverse reactions to the drugs.

“The percentage of victims reacting to them is very worrying and the reactions are very severe – among the worst I have seen.”

Following a report in this paper on the huge increase in the sale of legal drugs, advertised as bath salts or plant food, worried parents have for the past two days been calling RTÉ’s Joe Duffy show.

One mother said her son did not recover for three days, while another said her daughter still had not returned to normal a few months later.

Others reported shops are staying open until 4am and selling the drugs all night.

A health worker claimed some head shop owners were taking advantage of vulnerable people by holding on to their dole cards as collateral to make sure they were paid.

Some of these people, mainly poly-drug users, she said, were injecting the products which was leading to abscesses and other problems.

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