Changes to the regulations on drugs in Ireland come into effect today; here’s what you need to know
The most significant effect of the new regulations is in relation to benzodiazepines and ‘z-drug’ sleeping tablets.
Benzodiazepines (such as diazepam) and ‘z-drug’ sleeping tablets (such as zopiclone and zolpidem) will be the drugs most significantly affected by the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016, which comes into effect from today, May 4.
As part of the amendment, signed by Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne T.D., on Tuesday, Benzodiazepines and ‘z-drugs’ will now be subject to restrictions already in place on possession and import of other controlled drugs in Ireland.
The new Misuse of Drugs Regulations contain a number of changes from the 1988 Misuse of Drugs Act, including the requirement for a higher standard of prescription for certain controlled drugs and changes to the essential criteria to be included on prescriptions for all controlled drugs.
A statement from the Department of Health said that the primary purpose of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 “is to protect public health by bringing certain substances which are open to misuse, and known to be traded on the illicit market, under the scope of the Misuse of Drugs legislation, thereby aiding the law enforcement activities of An Garda Síochána”.
It will also allow Ireland to fulfil its obligations and to control new psychoactive substances in accordance with EU Directives and international drug control.
Tony Duffin, CEO of Ana Liffey Drug Project, expressed his concern at the changes, saying: “We will be working with our clients and monitoring the situation - particularly for any new drugs trends or unintended consequences.
"The introduction of tighter controls of Benzodiazepines and Z-type drugs will have an impact on people who use these drugs. We know that when changes such as these are implemented there is always the potential for unintended consequences.
“For example, if there is a temporary drought in Benzodiazepine and Z-type drugs - what drugs will replace them? The market will respond; and we must also be ready to respond quickly to any new risky drug trend that may emerge.
"We look forward to a time when legislation is introduced to respond to drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue,” Duffin added.
“That time is not far off - there is a lot of empathy in Ireland for people who use drugs."