Spike in prescription and fake drug misuse
People have been warned about the dangers of buying fake and unregulated versions of genuine prescription medication amid concerns over an escalating problem in Derry.
Dessie Kyle, HURT (Have Your Tomorrows) addiction treatment centre manager, said there has also been an increase in abuse of genuine prescription and over the counter medication in the Derry and Strabane council area.
“As lockdown restrictions ease, we are witnessing a significant increase in client numbers accessing support to address issues associated with the misuse and abuse of legal and illegal acquired medication,” Mr Kyle said.
“Quite often this medication is taken with alcohol, significantly increasing the potential harm that can arise from this, or they are mixing with illegal substances again putting themselves at great risk of harm or worse.”
Mr Kyle said that some substances sold as versions of real medication are being purchased on the internet “where there is absolutely no guarantee of quality of product or that even the substance that you think you are purchasing resembles in any way the item that you ordered.”
He added: “We are aware of these products being bulk ordered from unscrupulous sellers who add a number of compounds to bulk the weight and increase their profits. These bulking items have been identified as anything from cement, baby powder to industrial chemicals.”
Mr Kyle warned that those who are acquiring these substances are not only “potentially at risk of criminal convictions, but you are putting the end user at great risk of harm or death.”
Mr Kyle said there are a number of people who “see a market to sell unlabelled or copy tablets to vulnerable people without ever considering the consequences of the potential for harm that often results from their use.”
HURT have appealed to anyone dependant on these substances to seek help. “There are a number of organisations who provide free services to anyone wishing to address their addiction.”
The Western Trust has also warned that all drugs, whether illegal drugs or prescription medication, carry risks.
A spokesperson for the Trust said that ‘drug and alcohol misuse is sadly an all too common issue.’ “The Western Health and Social Care Trust, with partner agencies, such as The Public Health Agency, strongly recommends that you do not take anything unless it has been prescribed to you by a medical professional and in accordance with your prescription.”
The spokesperson warned that ‘mixing any drugs can kill’: “Mixing drugs, which includes alcohol and prescription medication, is the most common cause of overdose and drug-related death and should be avoided.
“It can increase the toxicity of already potentially harmful substances and increases the risk of death.”
The Trust said the primary risk factors include taking too much of a substance, taking a substance over an extended period of time or “bingeing”, mixing drugs with other drugs and/or alcohol and using drugs on your own. The Trust has advised anyone who thinks they have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs to visit www.drugsandalcoholni.info for information about support services in the area.
They urged who has taken drugs, or have misused a medication, and are feeling unwell to seek medical help urgently.
The PSNI in Derry meanwhile have confirmed they have attended several sudden deaths in the city in recent times. There is speculation that some of the deaths may involve misuse of prescription or fake drugs. A spokesperson said that post mortem examinations and toxicology tests will be carried out to determine the cause of death in each case.