‘Under the counter’ vapes found to contain Cannabis


Concerns have been expressed that young people are using vapes which contain cannabis extracts, and that these products are being purchased online or “under the counter”.

Denis Murray, one of the country’s senior adolescent addiction counsellors, confirmed that a vape given to him by a concerned parent contained an oily liquid which subsequently tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — a controlled drug.

“The young person reports getting it from a friend,” he said. 

“While parents struggle with the dilemma of allowing their children use regular flavoured non-nicotine vapes, I don’t know of any parents who are comfortable with their children having access to vapes containing THC or possibly other substances, as these products are not registered in Ireland even for adults.”

Mr Murray, who has worked with the HSE’s Adolescent Addiction Service in Dublin for the past 25 years, said: 

"My understanding is that they are acquired under the counter in some shops and online.

“Given the illegal nature of supply, it is difficult to know if the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is being produced in Ireland and inserted into cartridges or if it is imported within sealed cartridges and re-labelled.”

He also referred to a recent report in The New York Times that highlighted the potential issues faced by young people who consume high-dose THC through vaping.

It said adolescents who frequently use high doses of cannabis can potentially experience psychosis that could possibly lead to a lifelong psychiatric disorder, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, changes in brain anatomy and connectivity and poor memory.

In the most recent HSE Adolescent Addiction Service Report, covering 2021, cannabis continued to be the primary substance of use, with an overall use rate of 96% among those who attended the service, far ahead of alcohol, which featured among 54% of attendees — a fall of 15% compared to the prevalence rate in 2020.

A HSE spokesperson said: “There is a concerning high level of cannabis use among young people. 

"This is reflected in treatment data, which indicates that the main drug responsible for attendance at addiction treatment services in those under the age of 25 years is cannabis.

"The harms associated with cannabis are well documented and particular concern remains among professionals in relation to the adverse effects of cannabis on the Mental Health of young people.”

The HRB said it was not something they had come across and the treatment data did not indicate it was an issue, but a spokesperson said it was something that would be monitored.

Region: Ireland