The emergence of 'legal highs' or 'new psychoactive substances' (NPS) on the Irish market is reflective of their appearance in many countries, with some notable exceptions. The official response to the situation is examined here by looking at Irish controlled drugs legislation and drug enforcement policies as enacted in recent years and their effects on academic research on NPS. The philosophy and practice of outright bans of scheduled substances has not been effective in delivering the stated aims of illicit drug control, namely harm reduction. With these legislative changes, we have witnessed the removal of the 'legitimate' sale and open marketing of a number of NPS to the general public in commercial retail premises. However, as legislation was enacted, suppliers and vendors rapidly changed the contents of their legal high products from now controlled to non-controlled substances. We have found that it is administratively challenging to perform scientific research on controlled substances at academic institutions. It is desirable to gather analytical, pharmacological, and toxicological data on these substances as they emerge on the market but due to the restrictive nature of licensing requirements, once a substance or generic class of substances is controlled, this becomes more difficult. The facts that any quantity of substance, no matter how small, is controlled, the nomenclature used to describe compounds is not consistent within the enacted legislation and the use of catch-all classes of compounds with the intention of controlling many similar molecular structures, all create problematic issues for academic researchers.
Keywords: Ireland; NPS; academia; forensic service provider; legislation; new psychoactive substance; research; university.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.