Belfast Telegraph

'Legal highs' leave Larne trio in hospital

999 crews called to house party after two men and woman collapse

By Adrian Rutherford

Three young people have been rushed to hospital after apparently taking legal highs.

Emergency services were called to the Green Drive area of Larne following a 999 call early yesterday morning.

Ambulance crews found one person unconscious and two others in a semi-conscious state.

They were two men aged 19 and 21, and a female believed to be in her 20s. They were taken to Antrim Area Hospital.

Their conditions are not life-threatening. A PSNI spokesman said: "The three are thought to have consumed alcohol and/or suspected psychoactive substances otherwise known as legal highs before they fell ill."

The Ambulance Service said it sent three vehicles to the scene.

A spokesman said: "The Ambulance Service received a 999 call at 7.25am requesting attendance at an address in the Green Drive area of Larne due to one person being unresponsive and others having altered levels of consciousness. Three vehicles were dispatched to the scene and three patients were taken to Antrim Area Hospital."

Legal highs are substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs but are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

They cannot be sold for human consumption, but are often marketed as bath salts or plant food to get around the law.

Most fall into three main categories: stimulants, sedatives or hallucinogens. Earlier this week it emerged there had been just 16 convictions for the importation, possession or supply of unlicensed or unauthorised medicines in the last 10 years in Northern Ireland.

The figures were revealed by Justice Minister David Ford after an Assembly question from East Antrim DUP MLA Alastair Ross.

Mr Ford said that, during the same period, significant quantities of high-value illegal medicines had been intercepted and destroyed before reaching their intended recipients in Northern Ireland.

However, Mr Ross said the figures were unacceptable.

He has called for a unified approach taking in the police, Assembly and local government to tackle the issue. "This whole area is deeply confusing and fraught with difficulty but I do believe it is a problem that requires serious attention in order to stamp it out," he said.

Mr Ross said the Department of Justice had a responsibility to draft and table robust legislation that can be enforced by police.

"I would urge the minister and his officials to get to work in earnest on the issue of drafting legislation."

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