Belfast Telegraph

'Alcohol link' to those arrested

Almost half of those arrested in Northern Ireland had recently consumed alcohol, it was disclosed.

Assaults were linked to many of the detentions, according to a report published by the Department of Health.

The Stormont administration said: "The relationship between crime and the consumption of alcohol and drugs is well established. The misuse of both drugs and alcohol is of increasing concern to the police and public alike."

An analysis of people arrested and taken to police custody suites showed that 46% declared that they had consumed alcohol recently, the department's report said. This rose to 77% for those detained between 10pm and 6am on weekend nights.

In more than half of arrests for assault-related offences, alcohol had been consumed beforehand, the document said.

Research has indicated that alcohol misuse alone costs up to £900 million every year, according to health minister Edwin Poots, who also warned of the price of drug abuse.

He added: "However, these figures can never describe the true human cost that substance misuse has on our society."

The report noted encouraging signs involving reductions in the levels of binge drinking and the percentage of young people who drink and get drunk.

It added: "Prevalence of illegal drug misuse has largely plateaued and we are seeing more people access treatment and support services for alcohol and drug misuse.

"However, levels of alcohol and drug related hospital admissions and deaths are still high, and there is increasing concern about the misuse of prescription drugs and new psychoactive substances."

The minister said he was not complacent.

"In particular, prescription drug misuse and the misuse of new psychoactive substances remain a very real risk to the health and wellbeing of our population and we need to do more to raise awareness of these issues and provide treatment and support for those who need additional help."

Recently a coroner said a cluster of 20 deaths linked to a new, unregulated stimulant drug known as "speckled cherries" was like having a serial killer on the loose.

The fatalities happened between June 18 last year and April this year and the toxic substance caused agitation, convulsions, overheating and death, but was not yet banned.

Mr Poots said almost 400 people die each year from an alcohol and/or drug related cause, and over 14,000 people are still admitted to hospital every year from alcohol and drug related conditions.

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