Belfast Telegraph

Five deaths in Belfast 'may be linked to drug misuse'

Detectives are investigating whether the sudden deaths of a teenage girl and four men in Belfast since Friday were caused by drug misuse.

The 16-year-old girl and three of the men, all aged in their twenties, died in separate incidents on Monday. The other man died in the city on Friday.

Police are not linking any of the five incidents at this stage and said there was no one common drug suspected.

They said a combination of prescribed medication, illicit drugs and alcohol were potentially involved.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Superintendent Tim Mairs said: "Investigations are at an early stage but I would like to take the opportunity to reinforce the dangers posed by taking any illegal drugs or any medication that is not prescribed for you.

"Drugs misuse can affect anyone and we recognise that many vulnerable people are being exploited for the financial gain of those higher up the supply chain."

In a four-week operation earlier this year, police in Northern Ireland seized £793,000 of illegal drugs and made 92 arrests.

From January to November last year there were 78 drug-linked deaths in the region, a 28% increase on 2015.

Mr Mairs added: "Behind each of these statistics is a person and also a family who are living daily with this loss. The dangers of drug-taking are clear to see."

Post-mortem examinations will be conducted to determine the causes of each of the recent deaths.

On Monday, the teenage girl died in the Great Victoria Street area of the city centre; in west Belfast, a 26-year-old man died in Riverdale Park North; a 25-year-old man died in the Hannahstown area; and in south Belfast, a 28-year-old man died in the Utility Street area.

The fatal incident on Friday occurred in the Verner Street area of the city centre.

Seamus Mullen, from the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: "All drugs carry risks, therefore the PHA strongly recommends that you do not take them.

"If you have taken drugs and are feeling unwell, please seek medical help urgently."

He urged people to visit www.drugsandalcoholni.info for information on support services.

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