Press Release

Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 is passed by the Oireachtas

The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 has today finished its legislative passage through the Oireachtas.

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister for State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD thanked the TDs and Senators who contributed to the debate and who facilitated the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer recess.

The primary purpose of the Bill 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. These include so-called z-drugs – zopiclone and zaleplon.

Both Ministers stated that this Bill was one part of the whole-of-government approach in dealing with the serious crime situation in the north inner city of Dublin, following the recent murders and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to a health-led response to drug problems
The Bill also controls the benzodiazepine phenazepam and a number of new psychoactive substances which Ireland is required to control under our EU and UN obligations, as well as two substances found in the headshop drug ‘Clockwork Orange’. The Bill provides for a small number of other amendments of a technical nature.

Controlling the substances in the Bill is part one of a two-step process. Regulations are also required to allow legitimate users (for example patients with a prescription, health professionals) to possess the substances. Work is underway on drafting the regulations. The Act will be commenced when the associated regulations are ready but this should happen relatively quickly.

A Bill to legislate for the establishment of supervised injecting facilities will be published in the Autumn.

ENDS

Note for Editors: List of new Substances to be controlled

Prescription medicines:

  • Zopiclone – a medicinal product which is indicated for the short-term treatment of insomnia in adults. Zopiclone has been identified in the National Drug-Related Death Index as the main specific drug in 51 poisoning deaths in 2013 having increased from 6 in 2007. In 2014, the Gardaí reported 165 cases of zopiclone seizures.
  • Zaleplon – a medicinal product which is indicated for the treatment of patients with insomnia and is in the same family as zopiclone.
  • Lisdexamfetamine – a medicinal product which is indicated as part of comprehensive treatment programme for ADHD. It is structurally similar to other amphetamine substances controlled under the legislation.

Substances to be controlled under EU and UN obligations:

  • Phenazepam – member of the benzodiazepine family of medicines (such as diazepam (Valium)) which are used for sleep and anxiety disorders. It was added to Schedule IV of the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 in 2016.
  • 25B-NBOMe and 25C-NBOMe – stimulants with hallucinogenic properties pharmacologically similar to 25I-NBOMe, the substance associated with the death of an individual and hospitalisation of others in Cork in January this year. Noted as having no medical use and potential to cause substantial harm, these substances were added to Schedule I of the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 in 2015.
  • MT-45 – a substance with morphine-like effects and no therapeutic use in humans recorded. In 2014 the EU Risk Assessment found 28 deaths associated with MT-45. A decision was taken at EU level which requires Member States to control MT-45 by end October 2016. Subsequently it was added to Schedule I of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 2016.
  • 4,4′-DMAR – structurally similar to psycho-stimulants already controlled. In 2014 the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reported that 36 of the 37 deaths associated with 4,4’-DMAR in the UK had occurred in Northern Ireland. A decision was taken at EU level that requires Member States to control 4,4’-DMAR by end October 2016. Subsequently it was added to Schedule II of the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 in 2016.

Additional substances to be controlled:

  • MDMB-CHMICA – a synthetic cannabinoid, currently under risk assessment at EU level. It was reported in April that at EU level there were 71 serious adverse events associated with MDMB-CHMICA reported by 8 Member States, including 29 deaths. The Health Research Board also noted that Forensic Science Ireland reported 20 seizures of this synthetic cannabinoid between 30 March and 9 September 2015.
  • 5F-AKB-48 and 5F-PB-22 synthetic cannabinoids associated with the head shop product “Clockwork Orange”. In 2014, the Gardaí reported two fatal incidents in the Monaghan area where 5F-AKB-48 was subsequently found present in the bodies