Northern Ireland news

Seized drugs 'may be linked to west Belfast UDA'

Police said a drugs haul including 800 Xanax tablets have been found during searches in north Belfast

POLICE have said a drugs haul including 800 Xanax tablets may be linked to the west Belfast UDA.

Cash and drugs paraphernalia, including mixing agents, scales and bags, were also found after searches of two properties in the north of the city on Monday night.

A 26-year-old was arrested on suspicion of offences linked to the supply of class A and C drugs and remained in police custody last night.

Detective Inspector Lynne Knox, from the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force, said: "We are committed to restricting the availability of illicit drugs in our communities.

"Information suggests these drugs may have been linked to west Belfast UDA.

"Drug addiction ruins the lives of local people and lines the pockets of paramilitaries who have no thought for anyone in their community.

"The Paramilitary Crime Task Force is dedicated to keeping people safe through disrupting and dismantling these groups."

The seizure comes after the coroner for Northern Ireland described a rising number of deaths linked to Xanax as "an escalating crisis".

Xanax is a powerful tranquilizer used to treat anxiety and panic attacks and is not available on the NHS.

It is being linked to around 50 deaths during 2018, up from 26 in 2017 and just one the previous year.

Joe McCrisken warned against abuse of the pills and said "most of the deaths" he deals with are caused by counterfeit versions of Xanax, the brand name for the drug alprazolam.

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