Music festival fears over 'speckled cherries'
A fresh warning has been issued over the use of the deadly drug known as 'speckled cherries' as music fans make the annual pilgrimage to festivals across Northern Ireland.
The so-called party drug has been blamed for 20 deaths across the province over the past year, with one coroner saying it was like "having a serial killer on the loose".
The Public Health Agency has urged people using drugs and alcohol to be vigilant over the festival season. The agency specifically warned about the risk of taking Para-methyl-4-methylaminorex (4,4'-DMAR) – better known as speckled cherrries.
Senior health officer Victoria Creasy said: "We believe that 4,4'-DMAR may still be available here, and know that it has been linked to fatalities, so it is essential that people are aware of the risk it poses. We are also urging people generally to be vigilant if they take any drug, as there is a good chance the contents won't be what they believe," she said.
"For example, pills sold as ecstasy are frequently found to contain other drugs with less predictable and more dangerous effects."
The Public Health Agency stressed that the only way to avoid all risks was to not take any unprescribed substances. However, it acknowledged that a minority will be tempted to take drugs despite the warnings. Ms Creasy said: "If you are prone to feeling low, or have any mental health conditions, coming down from drugs can make you feel worse, so the best advice is to avoid taking anything not prescribed for you."
The most recent festival to take place in Belfast was Belsonic, where police confirmed there were no seizures of the deadly drug.