Minister warns of drug dangers
Around 110 people died in Northern Ireland last year as a consequence of drugs misuse, the Health Minister has warned.
Edwin Poots reiterated the dangers as police continued to investigate a recent spate of eight sudden deaths in the region linked to illegal substances.
Two of the deaths have been linked to a lethal batch of fake ecstasy tablets, so-called "Green Rolexes".
The type of pills, which are embossed with a crown, have also been linked to seven deaths of young people in Scotland in recent months.
The other six sudden deaths being investigated by police in Northern Ireland potentially involved other drugs. The eight people who died in greater Belfast and Coleraine over recent weeks were all aged in their 20s and 30s.
On Friday Mr Poots was briefed by senior police and community representatives about the drugs problem.
"The recent deaths of eight people in Northern Ireland are tragic and my thoughts and sympathies are with the families, but I must make it clear that this is by no means an isolated incident," he said.
"Around 110 people died last year as a result of drugs misuse, whether that's prescription drugs or illegal drugs - about nine people per month. This is far too many and totally unacceptable. No drugs are safe, the illegal drugs industry is not regulated and people have absolutely no idea what they are putting into their bodies, so I urge people to think again before taking any illegal drugs.
"We must all work together to tackle this scourge on our communities, from the health service, the PSNI and into our community groups. We are all on the same team with the same dream in mind - that our streets are free from drugs and our children can grow up without the temptation drugs can bring.
"I want to reassure the public that all key agencies are working together to prevent and address the, potentially fatal, harm that substance misuse has on our communities."