Warning to protect our youth from mephedrone
Health bosses have been accused of not doing enough to protect young people in Northern Ireland from the dangers of mephedrone.
A form of amphetamine, mephedrone has come to prominence in recent weeks following a number of high-profile deaths linked to the drug.
At a special evidence session in which representatives from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) addressed the Stormont health committee and admitted they have no idea how many people it has killed.
Deputy chair of the health committee Michelle O’Neill voiced concerns about how difficult it is to access information on the drug from the DHSSPS and Public Health Agency websites.
“I googled mephedrone and the first 10 sites it brought up were sites selling it but when I typed it into the Department website and the Public Health Agency websites nothing came up,” she said.
Conall McDevitt, SDLP health committee representative, also criticised Health Minister Michael McGimpsey for his failure to attend two meetings with government officials from across the UK and Ireland to discuss the drug.
During the hearing, the committee was told current legislation does not allow the Assembly to make mephedrone illegal — this can only be done by the Home Secretary, but the issue is currently under consideration.
The DHSSPS experts said if the drug, which is currently available in garden centres, is classified as illegal it would no longer be possible to sell it at any outlets.
However, they warned that the |people creating the drug will already be looking at other drugs to replace mephedrone.
There has been overwhelming support from Northern Ireland politicians to make it illegal.
Ahead of yesterday’s health committee meeting, Mr McGimp-sey said: “I am very concerned about the misuse of mephedrone in Northern Ireland and feel strongly this issue has to be addressed. This lethal substance is a potential killer and poses a serious threat to young people.”