Drugs claim 26 Mid Ulster lives in the past five years

'Legal highs' may have been the cause of some death in Mid Ulster
'Legal highs' may have been the cause of some death in Mid Ulster

Twenty six people have been killed by drugs in the past five years across Mid Ulster, according to new figures from the Coroners Office.

However the statistics, which came from a Freedom of Information to the Department of Justice, show that almost half (11) the people who lost their lives, died in 2013 alone.

With a further six passing away as a result of taking either a ‘legal high’ or an illegal substance in 2011.

But, addiction advice groups such as Tipsa say they are fighting a never ending battle as “some people will use anyway”.

The only way of dealing with it, they say, is “to get the information out there”, but budget cuts have put an end to some projects.

“I know of a few projects that lost their funding last week and if we are not putting information out there properly, it’s problematic,” said Tipsa’s Martin McCann.

Ecstasy tablets

Ecstasy tablets

As for the peak years highlighted in the figures, Mr McCann said they were probably due to the highly toxic drugs that “were floating about at that time”.

Read more: Cookstown man Connor Lagan and Alice Devlin from Dungannon may have been killed by the lethal drugs

Speaking about the number of deaths in 2013, Mr McCann added: “These things can happen in clusters. That was the time that we had a lot of problems with PMAA (Para Methyl Oxide amphetamine).

“It’s nearly the same as ecstasy except it’s more dangerous - it can cause death. In the past it’s been sold as ecstasy, that’s the reason so many people die from it - because they didn’t know what it was.

“It takes less of it to put somebody into overdose, and a lot of those drugs were floating about at that time.

“One tablet is enough now, but people were taking three or four a few years ago as the quality wasn’t so good - the cause of a lot of problems,” he added.

Read more: The judge at Alice Devlin’s inquest said: “Taking drugs was like playing Russian Roulette with your life.”

“The safest use is no use at all,” he went on, “but if people are using they need to know what they’re using and what the effects are going to be.

“People are complex beings. I’ve been to groups where they have lost someone to substance abuse, but it doesn’t put the rest of them off - they actually blame the victim.

“The simple fact is they did it same way as everybody else - but luck wasn’t with them that day.”