The human cost of the vile drug trade
The sudden deaths of eight people in Northern Ireland, possibly because of the use of drugs, is first and foremost a human tragedy. These people were in their 20s and 30s with much of their life before them, and they will be mourned greatly by their immediate and wider families and by their friends.
Tests are continuing to discover whether these deaths were associated with one particular drug or other drugs, possibly in conjunction with alcohol.
This tragic situation raises once again the drugs problem which contaminates and sometimes ends the lives of so many people, and it also raises the question as to what society can do about it.
The whole drugs scene is something which people outside this culture find difficult to comprehend. The consumption of alcohol, within strict limits, has been one traditional way of enjoying a night out, but the idea of consuming 'recreational' drugs is harder to understand.
Unfortunately, however, a wide range of drugs is available nowadays, and often at a remarkably low cost. One of the drugs currently being investigated costs only £3 a pill, which is cheaper than many ordinary drinks containing alcohol.
Another major problem is the availability of drugs, particularly in areas where paramiltaries have strong influence.
This again raises the question as to whether society is much too tolerant of such anti-social behaviour which might be part of a price that is being paid for maintaining the peace.
There should be no grounds for such tolerance, nor should the war against the drugs suppliers and pushers be lessened in any way. All possible measures should be taken by the authorities to combat one of the greatest social evils of our time.
This is also a challenge for parents, teachers and anyone with influence over the young, to emphasise repeatedly the dangers of drugs.
Certainly, anyone who is offered or possesses the latest green-coloured tablets with a crown or castle logo should refuse them or bin them. This warning could not be more stark or timely in the aftermath of the latest tragedy.