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Film-maker lifts the lid on our city's shocking drugs culture

By Donna Deeney

Published 08/10/2015

Detox tablets prescribed to drug addicts are being sold on the black market in Londonderry for up to £90 each, a documentary-maker has claimed.

And morphine-based pain relief patches can be bought under the counter in at least one mobile shop in the city, according to Gavin Patton.

Mr Patton is part of the campaign for a detox centre in Derry, and said evidence he gathered for his latest production on drugs in the city has convinced him any facility needs to be a properly supervised unit.

His hard-hitting documentary Derry Detoxed pulls no punches about the effects of substance abuse.

But he said he was shocked at the extent of the problem and how open the current system is to abuse.

He was given anecdotal evidence that drugs to help detox patients were being sold on the black market for between £60 and £90 each, and that drug addicts were buying drugs under the counter in mobile shops in Derry.

Tonight in Derry the campaign to secure a detox centre in the city will host a forum where recovering alcoholic Mr Patton will be among the speakers.

Ahead of the event, he told the Belfast Telegraph any detox facility that might come must be tightly supervised.

He explained: "I went into making the documentary with the idea that it would be about drink and drugs - but the drugs were such a big issue it took over and I have at times been left completely shocked by what I learnt.

"I turned up to meet one young man and he was jumping out of his skin, he was shaking and looked really sick. I was in my car and this fella went into the mobile shop and I was watching through the mirror as you do and I saw him come out and open a packet and put the contents in his mouth.

"This was morphine-based medication used for patients in high levels of pain - a prescription-only drug - and was not used in the way it would be recommended by a doctor.

"Other people told me how they get a drug called 'Subutex' which is used for people-detoxing. It is supposed to be taken in front of a chemist, who is supposed to check and make sure the person has swallowed the tablet. But some chemists are being bluffed and the tablets are being sold on the black market for up to £90 each.

"There are other people who get this Subutex on a strip with several tablets on it which they are trusted to take themselves, only they are not. Instead they are selling them on.

"People are doing this because they are afraid to come off drugs because there is no proper detox centre - one that is residential and medically supervised. So they continue to take drugs."

A spokeswoman for the Health and Social Care Board said it was unaware of patients selling on medication, but will implement changes where necessary.

"The Health and Social Care Board is not aware of such issues and will review any case examples where it is alleged that pharmacies are acting outside professional or contractual protocols."

The PSNI Commander in Derry City, Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan, said: "We would ask local people to let police know if they are offered any medicines from an unregulated source, or if they know of it being sold from an unregulated source."

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