Belfast Telegraph

Derry's drug problem 'is becoming graver’

BY DONNA DEENEY

Londonderry's drug problem is “grave and becoming graver” according to an organisation set up to help young people at risk from violent attack from paramilitaries because of drugs.

Time2Choose, a mediation project operated by Rosemount Resource Centre which negotiates between young people under threat and the paramilitaries, hosted a conference which laid out in blunt terms the affects so-called legal highs can have.

It revealed that children as young as 15 were becoming addicted to drugs and was now looking at a programme targeting primary school children.

The conference was attended by most of the second level schools in Derry as well as various bodies that work with young people in the field.

Denise Grant, project worker with Time2Choose, said the programme aimed at older primary school children was badly needed.

She said: “This was a very successful conference with some extremely powerful speakers who made a real impact on the audience.

“It is quite frightening the lack of knowledge that exists around so-called legal highs particularly among older parents who are under the illusion that because the term “legal” is used that these drugs are safe.

“They are all too often faced with the harsh reality of what it means when their child becomes addicted to them but are ill-equipped about how to deal with that. Before long they can find themselves at the doors of Rosemount Resource Centre because their child is under threat from paramilitaries.

“The drug situation in Derry is grave and is becoming graver by the day and while we hope to take the content of the conference to all second level schools in the city we are also looking at the possibility of developing a version that would be suitable for primary schools.

“Among our speakers was Karen Audina from Letterkenny where there is a complete ban on all legal highs. She said her son Jimmy bought legal highs on a trip to England and sadly he died at the age of 19.

“That was a harsh learning curve for her and her family and she is determined now that others are educated about the real dangers.”

The conference was the first of its kind to take place in the city and comes at a time when there is huge public support and demand for a detox centre.

The idea has already been endorsed by Derry City Council and the Western Trust who have contributed to a consultation process on addiction services.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed a final decision will be made about this soon.

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