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Man arrested as police seize drugs in RVH

By Gráinne Brinkley

YOUTH workers have warned young people against using illegally obtained prescription drugs after a police apprehended what is believed to be a quantity of diazepam tablets from a man in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The dramatic seizure comes just one month after the Andersonstown News reported that a new illegal diazepam-style drug known as “whities”, which cause three-day long downers, had left a number of local young people hospitalised and in danger of self-harm and suicide.

Police seized around 16 diazepam tablets from a 21-year-old man in a car park of the Royal Victoria Hospital shortly after 10pm on Thursday, March 29.  The man was arrested and subsequently released pending a report.

Phil McTaggart, founder of suicide prevention charity PIPS, called for a “unified approach” from statutory bodies to address the growing abuse of prescription drugs by local young people.

“The young people that are taking these drugs are doing so as they need a fix and do not have the money for what they normally take,” he said.

“It’s not good enough just to seize these drugs, arrest and charge people who are in possession of them, the underlying issues need to be addressed too.  What leads young people to rely on diazepam? What help and support is out there for them to get clean?”

Mr McTaggart said greater awareness was needed on the side effects of diazepam and how easily the medication can be obtained for illegal use.

“Diazepam can be got from anywhere, it could be stolen from a family member that is taking it as a properly prescribed medication or bought illegally like most drugs and this is where education and awareness on diazepam is badly needed,” he said. “They also can be prescribed too freely in some cases and this could be a way that young people are able to access them.”

West Belfast MLA and member of the Assembly’s Health Committee, Sue Ramsey, said problems with prescription drugs were “a real issue in the community”.

“Anyone without a prescription should not be taking them and if they are they need to examine their own conscience,” she said.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said police in West Belfast were “committed to tackling the issue of drugs” and that it was “a key priority for officers in the area”.

“In this financial year to date in West Belfast [from April 2011 to Feb 2012] there has been a 29.87 per cent increase in those charged with drugs offences compared with the same period the previous year,” said the spokesperson.

“Police are determined to tackle this issue but need the support of the community to do so. Anyone who has any concerns or who would like to speak to police can contact them on 0845 600 8000.”

When contacted about the diazepam seizure in the Royal Hospital’s grounds, a spokesperson for the Belfast Trust said they were unaware of the incident.


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