How a moral panic influenced the world’s first blanket ban on new psychoactive substances

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Windle, James
Murphy, Paul
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Taylor & Francis
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Ireland passed the world’s first blanket ban on new psychoactive substance in 2010. This article traces the historical processes culminating in the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act (2010) through a systematic review of Irish media articles published between 2000 and 2010 (N = 338). The review found that head shops were largely tolerated when they sold cannabis paraphernalia (2000–2008), possibly indicating the normalisation of cannabis in Ireland. Some mild condemnatory language emerges between 2008 and 2009 when head shops began selling some new psychoactive substances. The review suggests that the 2010 Act was partly a product of a moral panic, driven and managed by a range of moral entrepreneurs and, involving both peaceful and violent protests. Unlike some traditional moral panics, young people were not identified as folk devils but rather as under threat from a new drug distribution model (head shops) and new drugs (NPS).
New psychoactive substances , Head shops , Legal highs , Moral panic , Folk devil , Ireland , Protest , Vigilantism
Windle, J. and Murphy, P. (2021) 'How a moral panic influenced the world’s first blanket ban on new psychoactive substances', Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, doi: 10.1080/09687637.2021.1902480
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy on 05 April 2021 available online: