Concern Over Rise In Drug & Alcohol Related Deaths

An SDLP MLA is urging members of the public to "wake up to the deadly dangers of drug and alcohol misuse" after a spate of deaths related to addiction in recent weeks.

Mark Durkan's comments follow the publication of new official figures which show alcohol-related deaths are at a record high in Northern Ireland.

The PSNI also issued a warning of the dangers of mixing alcohol, prescription, and illicit drugs in the aftermath of 10 suspected drug-related deaths in Belfast since December.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said the use of illicit drugs along with prescription drugs "may be a factor" in the cases of the ten people who lost their lives in Belfast.

"The vast majority of drug-related deaths in Northern Ireland occur when someone has taken more than one substance, including alcohol.

"We are committed to restricting the availability of illicit drugs in our communities and have had significant success throughout 2018."

SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark Durkan MLA condemned the marked-increase in addiction related deaths in the past month. He said: "Northern Ireland has one of the highest rates of drug and alcohol misuse, including the misuse of prescription pills, and sadly, in recent months we have seen the fatal consequences of this misuse.
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"Of course if used correctly, prescription medication can be beneficial however as evidenced within our communities, there exists an assumption that their recreational use is safer than that of Class A drugs, but that is absolutely not the case."

The Foyle MLA continued: "The toxic cocktail of alcohol and both illicit and prescription drugs, mixes already potentially harmful substances and in turn increases the risk of serious harm or death. The ease of online access to prescription drugs in particular, is very worrying and undoubtedly has exacerbated this issue. Over the past ten years we have seen drug misuse deaths increase fourfold- that is utterly staggering.

"It is glaringly obvious that more must be done to help both those suffering with addiction and to educate young people on the very real dangers of this misuse. What they may consider as a bit of fun, could cost them their lives. Drugs do not discriminate- they are destroying lives and families in our city," Mr Durkan concluded.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, 303 of the 16,036 deaths registered in the region in 2017 were due to alcohol abuse.

The figure has increased consecutively each year since 2013 and demonstrates a jump of 30% from the year previously, as well as a 70% rise since records began in 2001.


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