In the run up to Christmas the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people across Northern Ireland to think about the serious risk that drugs pose to your health and your life.
The 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.
Owen O’Neill, the PHA’s Lead on Alcohol and Drugs, warned against the use of illicit drugs and the misuse of prescription drugs.
“You can never be 100 per cent sure of the make-up of illicit drugs and the only way to avoid all risks is to not take any drugs which have not been prescribed for you by your doctor.”
In the UK last year alone, a total of 251 psychoactive substances were identified and new drugs were identified at a rate of one per week. The effects of these drugs are more unpredictable than ever before.
Owen also warned of the dangers of using more than one drug (poly-drug use), mixing drugs with alcohol and bingeing on drugs.
“Bingeing typically involves taking drugs over a period of 12 hours or more. This is hugely risky and can result in permanent damage to health or even death. Bingeing also usually involves taking a combination of drugs including alcohol.”
Owen said that many people who use drugs do not realise the consequences of bingeing and said that build-up of drugs in the body can have serious consequences.
“Bingeing has a serious impact physically and also mentally. The comedown from bingeing can be very difficult, affecting the user’s mental health and wellbeing.”
If you do choose to take drugs despite the associated risks, the PHA offers the following advice: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, 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