Belfast Telegraph

More needs done to combat drug abuse

Editor's Viewpoint

There are many misconceptions about drug abuse in Northern Ireland. One is that it is not as prevalent as in other parts of the UK or the Republic, where there appears to be open gang warfare connected to this evil trade.

Another is that people who take drugs have a background of homelessness and addiction.

A further deadly mistake to make is to consider prescription drugs or the single use of an illegal drug as less dangerous to health.

As stories in this newspaper today show, all of the above is wrong. Most telling is the inquest into the death of Jamie Burns who died after taking a single ecstasy tablet at a Belfast nightclub last November.

Like many young people, Jamie decided to experiment with the drug by taking a single tablet. That decision cost him his life.

The sad lesson to be learned from his death is that it takes only one pill to kill - the slogan adopted by his grieving father in his campaign to warn other young people of the dangers of drug use.

He saw his 23-year-old son lying dead after a night out with friends and that has spurred him into action - a campaign which he said he will continue for the rest of his life.

As the coroner said, if it saves even one life then Jamie's death will not have been in vain.

The coroner also pointed out, many young people ignore all advice on the dangers of drug use. A teenage girl died at the weekend after being supplied with drugs by someone she knew.

Another tragic death, another grieving family, but they are far from alone. The coroner at Jamie's inquest said Northern Ireland is facing a tidal wave of drug-related deaths. That is a chilling statement.

Equally chilling are the photographs showing young people injecting themselves with heroin. That used to be viewed as a form of drug abuse alien to this part of the world, but now, obviously, is relatively commonplace.

We know that the PSNI has many competing priorities on its resources, but surely tackling drug abuse must be high on the list. Naturally much of the work in catching dealers and the importers of drugs must be covert, but greater street presence by officers would also be a deterrent to the street-level trade.

Drugs, in the deaths they cause, are more deadly than dissident terrorists and should be countered with the same vigour so that more young people don't lose their lives.

Belfast Telegraph

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