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Devastating Drone drug linked to deaths

‘Legal high’ banned but still causing havoc

By Paul Ainsworth

A potentially lethal former ‘legal high’ is still in demand across South Belfast, after having previously caused an “epidemic” of anti-social behaviour in local areas.

New police figures reveal that South Belfast’s drug habit remains as high as the users, with the most combined seizures of anywhere in the Northern Ireland over the last year, and the most arrests in connection with narcotics.

However, the data also reveals that mephedrone, which was outlawed over the last number of years, is still worryingly popular.

The mind-bending powder, which was previously available to purchase legally in certain shops, is now a Class B drug. Officers recovered 149.5 grams of the drug in South Belfast over the last 12 months, eclipsing the hauls from other areas, with the second highest seizure being just 66.5 grams in North Down.

Often just known as ‘Drone’ the drug, which can cause euphoric effects but often leaves users with harrowing ‘comedowns’ lasting days, is highly addictive, and has been linked to a growing number of deaths across Ireland and Britain.

A local community worker who has witnessed the devastating effects of mephedrone has said although evidence of the drug among some youths currently remains low, there were fears that its popularity could once again cause problems.

Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group said: “A few years ago there was an epidemic of this drug in our area, and it can have very destructive effects.

“We can measure such problems through the issues they cause, and when its use is high you will see more burglaries as people are trying to get cash to feed their habit, while you will also see more family relationship breakdowns as young people deal with their problem.

“Thankfully, we are aware that since it was made illegal, the availability of mephedrone is decreased, but I would be concerned to hear that more is being recovered in South Belfast than anywhere else. Of course, other drugs remain a problem as always, and we know that overall drug use is still common in some areas.”

The statistics also reveal that South Belfast was the only location for the recovery of liquid opiates, which can include heroin, while cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis remain popular, with some of the highest seizures anywhere.

Overall, the pills, powders and other substances pulled from South Belfast streets over the last year are valued at £291,693.

A PSNI spokeswoman said that across B District, comprising both South and East Belfast, the issue of drugs remained a priority for police.

“As part of our drug’s strategy, officers have been undertaking a programme of enforcement and education,” she said.

“We will continue to work with local residents, community representatives, businesses and elected representatives to ensure that resources are channeled in the right direction to do this.”





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