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'Teenagers needed therapy after taking head shop drugs'

A Dublin school principal has warned of the dangers of 'head shop' drugs after two teenagers who had taken the substances needed counselling.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor told the Herald the youngsters needed psychiatric treatment after experimenting with the 'legal highs'.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor, who is also a Fine Gael councillor in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, said the teenagers involved were two students from Blackrock in south Dublin, aged only 15 and 16 years old.

"One is suffering with anxiety and the other depression," the principal of the Harold Primary School in Glasthule, Co Dublin, said.

The pupils in question are not connected with her school.

She said their parents, who had contacted her, had traced the difficulties back to the teenagers' use of the drugs.

"In addition, drug treatment services have raised concerns that reformed addicts are now turning to these legal drugs, leading to almost inevitable relapse in terms of illegal drug use," Ms Mitchell O'Connor added.

She wants to see legislation to govern the sale of the products.

"Local communities and society more generally face a serious problem resulting from the sale of psychoactive 'legal' drugs that mimic the effects of their illegal counterparts on users.

"Despite the fact that the sale of these products is limited to over 18s, there is widespread suggestion ... that younger people, often as young as 15 years, are accessing the drugs," Ms Mitchell O'Connor said.

Her comments come as Minister of State John Curran demanded immediate action to ban 'legal highs'.

Mr Curran wants the substances to be outlawed instead of regulated.

Mr Curran, who is attached to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht, made his comments at a National Drugs Task Force conference on legal highs.

He said he believed "many of the products pose serious risks for users" and in that regard his view is "to have them banned rather than licensed and controlled in that way".

"We will look at other things other than just the Misuse of Drugs Act. We will look at other consumer protection legislation," he added.

While the sale of legal highs is being monitored by gardai, the shops that sell them are operating within the law and the substances are not illegal.

However, there has been a ground swell of opposition to the products.