You can't buy a buy a bottle of wine after 10pm or smoke in a public place -- but you can buy a "legal high" 24 hours a day or even have it delivered direct to your door.
So called "head shops" are a booming business throughout the country.
Often dark and poky looking, they are packed from floor to ceiling with various smoking, snorting and plant growing equipment.
Mysterious substances that have not yet been officially banned in Ireland are for sale and labelled as plant food and bath salts, marked "not for human consumption".
"XX Smoke, XXX Smoke, Snow and Hurricane Charlie are the most popular at the moment," said an employee of the Nirvana head shop in South William Street in the centre of Dublin. The legal highs it sells allegedly give similar effects to cannabis and cocaine for a much cheaper price. And Nirvana, which has been in business 1993, now has a chain of shops around the country. "Because there's so much talk about head shops in the media, it's making people more aware of what you can get here," said one customer last week. He added: "I never would have come into a head shop until recently."
Under the law, customers must be over 18 to buy anything from a head shop.
However, there is nothing to stop you ordering whatever you want online for delivery to your door.
"An Post deliver and you only have to sign if your order is over €50," said one head shop employee.
The employee added: "We used to provide couriers but had to stop because they kept getting beaten up when they delivered the packages."
One user of Mint Manias, which gives a similar effect to ecstasy, described her experience after taking one capsule as a "nightmare".
She added: "I thought I was going to have a heart attack, my heart was beating so fast. The heart palpitations, anxiety and panic lasted at least 24 hours."
On RTE's Primetime, an accident and emergency doctor recently told how more and more patients were presenting with symptons -- such as hallucinations, anxiety and psychosis -- after taking "legal highs".
The Department of Health announced last Wednesday that certain substances on sale in head shops would be brought under the control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, meaning that some of the more popular products will soon be outlawed.
However, former government minister Jim McDaid told Newstalk that a ban on head shops would be a "huge mistake". He said: "If we ban those drugs we are going to lose control of these drugs to the street people again."
Referring to the ban of BZP from head shops last year, and the subsequent seizure of €1.7m worth of the drug, Mr McDaid added: "BZP is now a street drug, we lost control of BZP."
However, Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews yesterday welcomed the ban. He added: "I have been greatly concerned by the recent reports detailing the potential serious health risks associated with the consumption of many of the products available in these retail outlets."
Februry 7, 2010
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