Health care professionals in Derry have been warned about a ‘potentially fatal new substance’ discovered for the first time in Northern Ireland.
Local drugs charity, HURT, have criticised the fact the information was not brought to them but stressed that the issue is worth highlighting.
Dr. Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, Social services and Public safety, wrote to the Health Trusts, clinical services, care providers, GPs and Public Health Agency warning about the dangers of an ecstasy type pill known as ‘Speckled Red’ or ‘Brown Cherries’.
The move follows the death in London of 20-year-old Donegal man Jimmy Guichard after he consumed a so-called ‘legal high.’ The case made national headlines.
While there is no connection between the warning and the substance used by Mr. Guichard, it is believed that ‘Speckled Red/Brown Cherries’ may be responsible for a number of deaths in Romania, though criminal and forensic reports into those deaths have yet to be completed.
In his letter dated October 11, Dr. McBride appeals for information on related cases or additional intelligence on the drug. It is described as: “red/brown or red/grey in colour, with a cherry logo stamped on them. Testing of three batches of these recently seized by the PSNI indicate that they contain a substance previously unseen in the UK.”
That substance, 4-methylaminorex, is a synthesized drug commonly known as ‘ice’ in the USA.
Dr. McBride writes: “Those who take drugs within Northern Ireland should therefore be specifically warned of potential dangers linked to these tablets. As the drug is new, symptoms are difficult to determine.
“Users should be urged to seek immediate medical help if they, or someone in their company, begins to feel unwell or feels a more intense high than usual after taking any drug, whether or not they believe it to be ecstasy.”
The reference to 4-methylaminorex could spark fears of ‘meth’ use locally. However HURT centre manager, Dessie Kyle, said: “We have not yet encountered Crystal Meth at HURT. There is no evidence to suggest that it has hit Derry. If it did it would be a tsunami in terms of drug abuse due to the corresponding crime and addiction rates.
“When people speak of crystal meth locally they are referring to Mephadrone which has crystalised.”
Mr Kyle warned: “These Speckled Reds or Brown Cherries are just another type of drug, just another name - the issue is with drugs not their name. Legal highs have not gone away. These are the biggest problem we face.”