Belfast Telegraph

Only through urgent, decisive action can we prevent more children falling victim to our growing drug epidemic

Editor's Viewpoint

Most of us know there is a drugs problem, but it is only when we read Tracy Bell's story that we begin to realise the horror involved.

Tracy is an addict support worker for young people. She carries out this commendable work in memory of her brother Gary, whose death 20 years ago was the first in Northern Ireland registered as being caused by heroin.

She knows addicts with debts of between £1,500 and £2,000, and one who owes a huge £19,500. Youngsters are paying up to £20 for a fix, and many of the dealers are having sex with vulnerable people.

Tracy claims there are "countless" 14-year-old addicts, and that one boy she knows injects himself 10 times a day.

We are facing a drugs epidemic that could have enormous consequences.

Part of the problem is that the drug trade is controlled by the paramilitaries, but this is all the more reason why the PSNI should tackle the problem head-on by moving against the pushers and bringing them to trial.

The courts must also play their part by imposing stiff sentences on those convicted.

There should be more understanding as to why young people become caught up with drugs. Tracy says that many of them have suffered trauma, but have not been given the right kind of support.

There is also an increased demand on hospitals, with the NHS already hard-pressed.

There is no easy solution, but we can help by being responsible for our own children and making sure they do not develop a drug habit.

We could also put pressure on our politicians to try and help, though the deadlock at Stormont does not help anyone at the moment.

Tracy is calling on the entire community to come together in attempt to tackle this growing problem.

She is doing her part by launching her GUS Health and Wellbeing charity, and we wish her every success.

Belfast Telegraph

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