Five suspected drug related deaths in Belfast last weekend
A Belfast councillor has hit out after a spate of suspected drug-related deaths in Belfast.
SDLP representative Paul McCusker said more needs to be done by the health service to tackle the problem, following five deaths in the city last weekend in which drugs are thought to have played a role.
The Oldpark councillor said it is a "disgrace" that Northern Ireland is seeing an increase in people dying from drugs in 2019.
It is understood those involved died after taking heroin and some cases several drugs were used.
Mr McCusker said: "The need for more early intervention, easier access to harm reduction support, detox treatment and crisis response is critical in dealing with the rise in individuals using heroin and poly-drug use.
"Behind those who have died are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters and we can no longer sit back and allow this to continue.
"Statutory services including the community and voluntary sector are under extreme pressure with rising waiting lists and until we see better investment and a reform of the current services many more lives will be put at risk."
Mr McCusker said he has written to Northern Ireland's chief medical officer, Michael McBride, over the problem, urging the health service to take action and "provide reassurance and hope to the public that this is being taken seriously".
"My thoughts are with those families who have lost loved ones who equally need support," he added.
The latest statistics available, for 2017, show that 136 of the 16,036 deaths registered in Northern Ireland were drug-related, with the vast majority being men.
This represents a 60% increase from a decade ago. Statistics also show that people living in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland are four times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those living in the least deprived areas.
Belfast Telegraph Digital