PSNI: 10 suspected drugs-related deaths in greater Belfast area since December
POLICE say there have been 10 suspected drugs-related deaths in the greater Belfast area since December.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said the "use of illicit drugs along with prescription drugs may be a factor" in the deaths, which occurred since December 17.
It comes just a week after The Irish News reported an increase in the abuse of high strength prescription medication, which is thought to have led to a number of deaths in the Belfast area over the Christmas period.
"The loss of a loved one is devastating for a family whatever the time of year but especially over the holiday period and our thoughts are first and foremost with those affected by these tragic deaths," said Mr Singleton.
"While the cause of death is not definitively known in any of these 10 deaths in Northern Ireland since December 17, 2018, the use of illicit drugs along with prescription drugs may be a factor.
"The vast majority of drug related deaths in Northern Ireland occur when someone has taken more than one substance including alcohol."
He said police are "committed to restricting the availability of illicit drugs in our communities and have had significant success throughout 2018".
Police statistics reveal that 6,771 drug seizures in the year ending September 30 2018 - an increase of 8.9 per cent in the previous 12 months. A total of 3,310 drug-related arrests were made in the same period, up by 469 on the previous year.
Mr Singleton added: "These sustained high levels of drug seizure incidents reflect the proactive work by the PSNI in response to concerns about drugs within our communities.
"The reality however is that as long as there is demand there will be drugs on our streets," he said.
Sinn Féin assembly member Orlaithí Flynn said news of 10 drugs deaths was "shocking and very concerning".
"My thoughts are with all of those touched by these deaths and their families," she said.
"It is a stark reminder of the dangers of the abuse of drugs in our society."