Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland drug addiction services 'overwhelmed'

Drugs (generic image)

A Belfast GP has said that drug addiction services in Northern Ireland are overwhelmed and it is time for a multi-agency approach.

Several deaths in Northern Ireland have been linked to drugs in the past fortnight.

Dr Michael McKenna said GPs are under pressure.

"The difficulty with the services is they are so overwhelmed that they cannot cope with the deluge of stuff that's coming in," he said.

"The money is one part of the equation, but actually physically the number of bodies on the ground to provide these services is also an issue.

"It can't just fall to GPs, we are already under tremendous pressures."

Dr McKenna told BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme that the number of his patients who had died due to drug addiction in the last 10 years would be "into double figures".

One pill can kill

More people in Northern Ireland die from drugs than those in road fatalities, according to the PSNI.

The latest figures released last month show there were 74 fatalities as a result of road crashes in 2015, but 88 opioid-related deaths in the same year.

Those drugs include heroin, morphine, methadone, as well as prescription drugs such as tramadol.

William Burns' son, Jamie, died last November after taking one pill on a night out.

"Anybody out there thinking drugs are good, if they had have been with me that night and saw my son on that trolley - blood on the floor, he had needles in his arms, he had tubes coming out of his mouth, he had his eyes taped and you could physically see the life draining away from him," said Mr Burns.

He said later a doctor "knelt down in front of the two of us and he just said 'look I'm sorry, I don't know how to tell you this, but he's gone'.

"You want the ground to open and just swallow you up."

Mr Burns is now involved in a campaign called #onepillwillkill to highlight the dangers of drugs.

"You could have taken 10 pills before it, over a period of weeks and been fine, and you could just take this one pill [which could kill you]," he said.

"I'm 110% sure that if my son had realised the consequences of taking one pill, he wouldn't have done it."

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