A warning has been issued that former ‘legal highs’ are still finding their way onto the streets of Derry, with some users experiencing severe problems after just one hit.
Derry charity HURT (Have Your Tomorrows) have warned that taking such psychoactive substances was akin to playing Russian Roulette with your life, as no-one knows what is in a particular batch, or how it will affect different people.
Dessie Kyle, HURT centre manager, said the issue was not confined to children or young people, with people even in their 40s and 50s experiencing issues after taking such substances.
For the year to April 1, 2016, a total of 383 local people accessed HURT’s services directly for a range of addiction issues, while hundreds more were engaged through educational projects.
Alcohol remains the most prevalent addiction problem locally, with Cannabis and Cocaine still on the radar.
Mr Kyle said: “Back around five years ago we would have had about 100 people a year. The numbers have increased quite substantially over a number of years. The need was there before, but it is now being met more.
“There was an increase especially around the time of so-called ‘legal highs’ with more young people looking for support over the last two or three years.
“We welcome the fact that such substances are no longer available on the main street but it hasn’t eradicated their availability.
“The problem is, who knows what’s in them?
“Some people have taken it once in their lives and then have severe issues with the come down and flashbacks, and I do mean people who have tried them just once or twice.
“They are playing Russian Roulette with their lives.
“They can affect anybody, it’s hit or miss. You could have four people taking the same thing and it might not impact on three of them while one person has been severely affected.
“What we have noticed is there is a higher percentage mixing alcohol and psychoactive substances.
“Around 30% of the people we are seeing would have taken psychoactive substances.”
HURT engages in a wide range of educational and preventative programmes and works with the local community pharmacist on a project called ‘Why Pay The Price?’
Representatives said there were issues among older age groups in relation to addiction to prescription medicines and medicines one can buy off the shelf.
Adrian Loughrey, Project Manager at HURT, meanwhile praised local people who fundraise for HURT. He said: “We are completely dependent on funding and we are really appreciative of all the support. We all know that addiction, alcohol and drug issues are really prevalent in the town so it is great to see local people taking a lead in helping us to address some of this.”
HURT run a walking group for older people along the back of the quay, open to all, every Thursday from Sainsbury’s at 11am. Anyone wishing to contact HURT or to help fundraise can contact them on 028 71369696 or via Facebook or website: www.hurtni.org.uk.