Too many people are dying from drugs misuse – that was the message from Health Minister Edwin Poots following a meeting with the PSNI and community organisations.
Speaking following the meeting the Minister said; “The recent deaths of eight people in Northern Ireland are tragic and my thoughts and sympathies are with the families but I must make it clear that this is by no means an isolated incident. Around 110 people died last year as a result of drugs misuse, whether that’s prescription drugs or illegal drugs - about nine people per month. This is far too many and totally unacceptable. No drugs are safe, the illegal drugs industry is not regulated and people have absolutely no idea what they are putting into their bodies so I urge people to think again before taking any illegal drugs.
“We must all work together to tackle this scourge on our communities, from the health service, the PSNI and into our community groups. We are all on the same team with the same dream in mind – that our streets are free from drugs and our children can grow up without the temptation drugs can bring. I want to reassure the public that all key agencies are working together to prevent and address the, potentially fatal, harm that substance misuse has on our communities.”
The Minister received an update from the PSNI on what is being done to prevent illegal substances being brought into Northern Ireland and the work being undertaken to tackle drug dealing. Mr Poots was also joined at the meeting with representatives from FASA (Forum for Alcohol and Substance Abuse), ASCERT (Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training).
The Minister continued; “I am particularly concerned about the ongoing availability of new psychoactive substances (often mislabelled legal highs). These substances are not safe and in many cases when tested they have been found to contain banned drugs. Therefore, by taking these substances you are risking your health, and also risking being prosecuted.
“I will be writing to the Home Office asking that we work together to strengthen legislation in this area and put in place mechanism to close down those selling these substances. I believe this would send a very clear message that taking any substance that hasn’t been prescribed for you comes with real risks.”
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