Leading article

Young people must be aware of deadly drugs danger

A number of drug-related deaths over the Christmas period has brought untold heartache to their families and prompted police to issue warnings to the public.

The sudden deaths of teenagers and people in their early twenties in the Belfast area are being investigated with a drugs link a strong line of inquiry.

There will be enormous sympathy for their parents, relatives and friends who have been given the most devastating news.

The loss of such young lives is deeply tragic and raises wider issues about the availability of drugs and getting the message across that these substances can kill.

After the recent spate of deaths, Chief Superintendent Chris Noble issued the clear advice that people should not take illegal drugs or prescription medicine that has not been prescribed for them and should not mix either substance with alcohol.

Mr Noble points out: ``The consequences of ignoring this advice can be life-threatening.''

The PSNI is absolutely right to spell out the undeniable risks of taking uncontrolled substances.

It will be recalled that in 2013 there were up to 20 deaths over a number of months linked to a type of Ecstasy pill which contained a substances called PMMA.

At the time, senior coroner John Leckey likened the deaths to `having a serial killer on the loose.'

The problem for the authorities is that many young people will know the risks but continue to take these potentially lethal pills.

Some are in the grip of addiction, something that has a devastating impact on the individuals and their families.

North Belfast councillor Paul McCusker, who is a health professional, said there is a lack of education and awareness which needs to be addressed.

He also called on the police to deal with the source of the drugs and to release more information about what is causing these deaths.

Clearly, we need to get the message out that drugs can kill - even one tablet can result in death - and parents must ensure their children are aware of the dangers.

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