The Ulster Hospital is currently treating a person for the effects of a former ‘legal high’ prompting fears of its availability on the streets of North Down and Ards.
A hospital spokeswoman confirmed that a patient was being monitored for the effects of the drug NRG-1 (above) and was being “kept under observation”.
The party drug was made illegal only last month but a Bangor drugs awareness group and two Belfast hospitals have warned the drug remains a problem.
Belfast City Hospital and the Mater in north Belfast reported a “worrying increase” in the number of people presenting themselves at A&E having taken the drug in |recent weeks.
NRG-1, dubbed the ‘Devil’s powder’, is said to be 13 times stronger than cocaine and more addictive than heroin. It surfaced on the market following the banning of mephedrone back in April.
Alex Bunting, from drugs group FASA, said they have been forced to take people to hospital suffering from drug-induced psychosis after taking NRG-1.
Explaining the dangers of the drug, he said: “The problem is people taking NRG-1 don’t get the same initial high as they would from mephedrone.
“It takes longer to take effect so people end up taking more of it. We have had to take clients to hospital on a a Monday morning, after they had been using it at the weekend. They have been suffering from drug-induced psychosis; hearing voices, paranoia and feeling extremely anxious. Different people will have different reactions to this drug. It could be their first time taking it or they could be a heavy user.
“Either way what we have seen is more people coming through our doors having taken this drug. It is the main problem drug at present.”
Users — who are inhaling NRG-1 in a similar way to cocaine — are also believed to be taking ‘hot shots’, where the drug is dropped in hot water and drank as a shot.
North Down DUP councillor Wesley Irvine said the hospital admissions were a “major concern”.
“Our young people are getting sucked in under peer pressure. I would tell these young people if they are offered drugs, they should contact the police. If they don’t feel comfortable with that then they should contact groups like FASA.
“This is a society-wide concern and while these drugs are available on the streets the problem is only going to get worse.”