Northern Ireland

Drugs: Mother warns young people not to abuse prescription drugs after son's death

Aaron Strong Image copyright The Strong family
Image caption Aaron Strong was in a coma for six days before his life-support machine was turned off

A Belfast mother has appealed for young people not to abuse prescription drugs after the death of her son.

Ann-Marie Strong's son, Aaron, 18, died after taking a mixture of prescription drugs and alcohol.

Figures from the PSNI show that 10,000 fake diazepam tablets are shipped into Northern Ireland every week.

Prescription drugs have been linked to a number of deaths across Northern Ireland recently.

Aaron's mother said her son was in a coma for six days before they decided to turn off his life-support machine earlier this month.

She said he had taken tramadol, lyrica, diazepam and alcohol before falling into a coma.

"My heart was broken watching him in intensive care," said Mrs Strong.

"All I wanted to do was open his wee eyes and tell him that I loved him. But, I knew he was dead."

Heart attacks

Mrs Strong added that she does not want another life to be lost in the same tragic circumstances.

She said: "Please kids, stop, don't do it. One tablet and that's you gone."

It is understood a number of young people have died in recent weeks from a taking a mixture of prescription drugs and alcohol.

But, it is impossible to say officially how many because they are usually recorded as heart attacks.

Diazepam is sold on the streets, along with tramadol and lyrica, under names likes blues and yellows.

Arrests

There have been a number of drug raids, seizures and arrests across west Belfast targeting those selling prescription drugs.

Ch Insp Norman Hazlett, who works in west Belfast, said prescription drug abuse was a "significant" problem in the area but he added that the Police Service of Northern Ireland was "doing all we can to try and counter the issue".

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, the officer said the number of drug seizures, arrests and prosecutions had all increased across Northern Ireland over the past year.

"Since the first of April we have searched over 15 premises in west Belfast, we have made some significant finds of drugs including £60,000 of cocaine, £100,000 worth of suspected cannabis and a significant number of prescription tablets.

"We've had 10 arrests in total for varying offences including possession of Class A/Class B drugs and possession with intent to supply."

Alex Bunting from the charity, Addition NI, told the same programme that the abuse of prescription drugs - often taken in combination with alcohol and illegal drugs - was causing "huge concerns" for his organisation and a "collective" solution was needed.

"In terms of or prescribing rates and our GPs - they have to take some responsibility, but ultimately the people within our communities who are using these substances need to look at that as well," Mr Bunting said.

"We need to educate young people, we need to take away the demand for these drugs, rather than the supply."

Terry Maguire, a community pharmacist, said the drugs can be extremely dangerous.

"They all affect the brain and in affecting the brain, they will affect the way certain body organs work - particularly the heart," he said.

"In any circumstances, death is very often a consequence of misuse of prescription drugs."