Spate of suspect deaths in Belfast prompts alert over mixing of drugs
A senior PSNI officer has warned of the dangers of mixing alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs.
Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton was speaking in the aftermath of 10 suspected drug-related deaths in Belfast since December.
While the cause of the fatalities has yet to be determined, Mr Singleton said a combination of illegal and prescription drugs may have been a factor.
"Illegal prescription drugs are a definite concern for us," he said.
"It's something we're very focused on in terms of taking forward our harm-reduction strategy and we'd be keen to take more actions against those responsible.
"They can't be imported legally but the existence in particular of Asian manufacturers producing illicit prescription-type medicines is an issue. We've seen people stockpiling legitimate prescriptions for drugs like tramadol and selling them for profit.
"In cases like this, we're really in the hands of the public in that we need people to come forward with as much information as possible."
Mr Singleton's comments came as the family of a west Belfast man who died at the weekend spoke of their anger after he was encouraged to take drugs.
Antoin Martin (27) died in the early hours of Sunday in his Whiterock Parade home.
His family believe the young man was given drugs in a bar by strangers on Saturday night and took them, not understanding what they were.
His sister Niamh Martin said her family were "angry" that he could be targeted in such a way.
Mr Martin went out with family and became frightened when he returned home less than two hours later. He told his mother that he had been given tablets and hadn't wanted to take them.
Mr Martin then began taking fits before he stopped breathing. Despite efforts by his sister and paramedics, who used a defibrillator, he died on Sunday.
Niamh believes her brother, who had never taken drugs before, was "intimidated".
She told the Irish News: "I believe that he was afraid and the drugs were offered and he did it to try and fit in. When he got home, he was afraid. It was too late. There are people out there who just don't care."
PUP councillor and GP Dr John Kyle said people in Belfast were becoming "numb" to news of drug-related deaths.