Noticeboard

Commencement of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 and associated Ministerial Regulations and Orders

On 2 May 2017 Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne T.D., signed the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 (Commencement) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 172 of 2017). This Order commences sections 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8, and paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of section 7 of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 (No. 9 of 2016) on 4 May 2017.

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. In addition, it will allow Ireland to fulfil its obligations and to control new psychoactive substances in accordance with EU Directives and international drug control.

Commencement of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016:

  • Revokes a number of statutory instruments confirmed by the Oireachtas in March 2015 so that various regulations and orders can be remade and subsequently amended by secondary legislation if required
  • Adds a number of substances to the schedule of controlled substances

Subsequent to this Act new Misuse of Drug Regulations and associated Orders are required to allow legitimate users (e.g. health professionals, patients with a prescription) to continue to possess certain controlled drugs. The following statutory instruments have been remade and will also come into force on 4 May 2017:

  • Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 173 of 2017)
  • Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 174 of 2017)
  • Misuse of Drugs (Exemption) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 175 of 2017)

The new Misuse of Drugs Regulations contain a number of changes from the 1988 Regulations, as amended, and these changes were included in a 2013 public consultation. The most significant effect of the new Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017 is in relation to benzodiazepines (such diazepam) and ‘z-drug’ sleeping tablets (such as zopiclone and zolpidem). The restrictions already in place on possession and import of other controlled drugs will now apply to benzodiazepines and z-drugs.

The new Regulations also make changes to the essential criteria to be included on prescriptions for all controlled drugs in order to aid the identification of the prescriber, the patient and the controlled drug to be supplied.

A higher standard of prescription will also be required for benzodiazepines and z-drugs. However, unlike for controlled drugs in Schedules 2 and 3, benzodiazepine and z-drug prescriptions will not have to be handwritten and they may still be repeated by doctors. However, they should ordinarily only be used for short periods of treatment.

The most significant changes in relation to the prescribing of controlled drugs can be found in the document below, as can a list of the controlled drugs in Schedule 4 Part 1.

In order to minimise the impact of these changes to patients and practitioners, prescriptions issued before the coming into force of these new regulations will continue to be valid. Prescriptions issued on or after 4 May 2017 must comply with the new prescription requirements.

A link to the official Irish Statute Book entries will be provided in the coming days, in the meantime an unofficial draft of the new Misuse of Drug Regulations 2017 can be found below:

Changes to the prescription requirements for controlled drugs

Schedule 4 Part 1 Controlled Drugs in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017

Text of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017