PHA warns: Misuse of drugs can be fatal

Thursday, 24 October 2013 – Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement
 PHA warns: Misuse of drugs can be fatal

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is warning that the misuse of any drugs which have not been prescribed to you can result in death or permanent damage to your health.

The PHA is stressing that users can never be exactly sure of the make-up of illicit drugs. PHA is also warning that many people are misusing prescription drugs.

The message is clear – the only way to avoid all risks is to not take any drugs which have not been prescribed for you by your doctor.

The effects of the drugs on Northern Ireland’s streets are more unpredictable than ever before and new drugs are emerging constantly.

In the UK last year alone, a total of 251 psychoactive substances were identified with new drugs being identified at a rate of one per week.

Over the past few months the Chief Medical Officer in Northern Ireland has issued warnings on the potential dangers of substances including ‘Speckled Red’ or ‘Brown Cherries’, ‘Green Rolexes’, ‘Red Es’ and ‘Pink McDonalds’.

Owen O’Neill, the PHA’s Lead on Alcohol and Drugs, said: “It is clear from the work of Forensic Science Northern Ireland that highly dangerous substances are present in many drugs being sold in Northern Ireland.

“The composition of these drugs is in no way consistent, quality-controlled or tested, regardless of the ‘brand’ or of any assurances given by suppliers. It is also a myth to talk about rogue or bad batches of particular drugs.

“The only way to avoid all risks is to not take any drugs which haven’t been prescribed for you.”

Owen also warned of the dangers of bingeing on drugs, of using more than one drug (poly-drug use), and mixing drugs with alcohol.

“Many people who use drugs are bingeing for several days at a time. Bingeing is extremely dangerous and can result in death or permanent damage to health.

“The binges can involve mixing different types of drugs and alcohol, which is very risky. Statistics show that in Northern Ireland three quarters of drug-related deaths involve more than one drug.

“However, there is a serious issue in that many people may not recognise that they are bingeing. Even if it is just a case of taking a few drugs over the course of several days, this can have an cumulative effect with serious consequences, so it’s important to realise that this pattern of drug use can be very dangerous”

“Those who binge on drugs for several days will also have a huge comedown which will have an impact on their mental health and wellbeing,” he added.

The PHA is offering the following additional to those people who choose to take drugs despite the risks associated with taking these substances.

  • find out as much as you can about the effects of different drugs and then decide if it’s really worth it;
  • it is particularly dangerous to take drugs if you:
    • are on your own;
    • are ill, very tired or depressed;
    • are on medication;
    • have taken alcohol;
    • have a medical condition such as asthma; diabetes; epilepsy; high blood pressure; mental illness or heart disease;
  • it’s not a good idea to take other drugs to help you come down as this increases the risk of overdose –downers are particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol;
  • mixing alcohol and drugs, or different types of drugs, can be dangerous and should be avoided;
  • make sure your friends are aware of which drug you are taking and vice versa;
  • bingeing on drugs, either at one time or over the course of several days, can increase your level of risk.

For further information, see the PHA’s advice on harm reduction for drug users: www.bit.ly/drugharm