Approximately nine people a month are losing their lives due to drug-related incidents throughout Northern Ireland.
That was the stark message given by Health Minister Edwin Poots as he met with representatives of REACT Youth Information and Advice Centre to discuss recent suspected drug-related deaths in the Banbridge area.
The Minister said: “These figures are quite alarming. There were 110 drug-related deaths in Northern Ireland in 2012 – approximately nine a month or two a week.
“This is far too many and totally unacceptable. No drugs are safe.
“The illegal drugs industry is not regulated and people have absolutely no idea what they are putting into their bodies so I urge people to think again before taking any illegal drugs.”
Also in attendance at the meeting was Local MP David Simpson alongside members of the PSNI, the Banbridge Policy and Community Safety Partnership and REACT.
Mr Simpson added: “We are well aware of the damaging effects drugs are having in the Banbridge area, particularly in recent months. Figures have told us that 32% of drug-related deaths in the last 12 months have occurred in the Banbridge area. This should be a wakeup call for us all.
The Health Minister concluded: “At a local level it is imperative that we listen to organisations such as REACT to hear what more we can do to get the message out about how dangerous these substances can be, and to reduce the harm they are doing.
“The health service, the PSNI and community groups must all work together to tackle this scourge on our communities.
“We are all on the same team with the same dream in mind, that our streets are free from drugs and our children can grow up without the temptation drugs can bring.
“I want to reassure the public that all key agencies are working together to prevent and address the, potentially fatal, harm that substance misuse has on our communities.”