A Derry drugs awareness worker has said there has been an increase in the number of young people using ‘blues’ in the city recently.
Dessie Kyle, centre manager at HURT, a support service for drug users and their families, said there are trends of drug use in Derry and the current one is for ‘blues’ or tranquillisers.
“We have seen an increase in the use of blues in recent weeks. There are trends all the time in terms of drugs. Last year all the attention was on legal highs and blues but both are still around. Blues have been making a bit of a comeback but they never really go away,” he said.
Mr Kyle also said the biggest problem staff at HURT deal with is misuse of legal or prescription substances. “A lot of people who have serious issues in terms of drugs are using stuff that they can acquire legally, whether over the counter or on websites,” he explained.
He also said that so-called legal highs have not gone away. “We are still seeing legal highs all the time. New legal high products are appearing regularly. They are not getting the same level of public attention they did last year but they are still there below the radar.
“The chemists who make these legal highs, mostly in India and Asia, are always coming up with new products. As soon as a legal high is recognised and reclassified as a class B drug they work on it and change its chemical make up one or two steps and it becomes legal again and they re brand it and start selling it again. They are always a step ahead and are finding new ways to circumnavigate the law,” he said.
Mr Kyle also called for a change in legislation to help tackle the spread of legal highs. “In the United States in many of the states there is a law which is kind of a catch-all in terms of legal highs. Under that law, if a substance is deemed to be harmful then all related substances also come under the law which means the chemists cannot simply change one of two components and continue to sell it like they do here.
“We met with an MLA recently to discuss this and we are planning to go to Stormont to put pressure on our own government to introduce similar legislation here,” he said.
He also said many people do not realise the dangers of legal highs. “Some of the so-called legal high products get round the legislation here because they are sold marked ‘not for human consumption.’ However, when you look a bit closer it is clear what the makers of the product are intending to do.
“We recently came across a so-called legal high which was being packaged as plant food but when you took a look at the instructions it was couched in language that made the situation very clear. It said make sure you water your plant every three hours and your plant will really enjoy it,” he explained.
Mr Kyle also said the use of blues will most likely be replaced by something else soon. “This month its blues; next month it could well be something else.”