Northern Ireland

Suicide fears over teen drug debt

A teenager in Belfast, whose friend took his own life last year, has been threatened with violence by loyalist paramilitaries unless he agrees to pay his dead friend's drugs bill.

Philip McTaggart from PIPS project suicide prevention group said it was a worrying trend.

"In this case, the drug dealers put the debt of his dead friend onto him."

"It put a major strain on him, he didn't know what to do and was considering taking his own life."

"The problem for this was they were threatening his family, his father, brothers and sisters at one point," Mr McTaggart added.

"The drug dealers are well know criminals within in the north Belfast area, and they used the name of a paramilitary organisation. They said that he would be shot.

"At one point during the threats a gun was produced by one of these drug dealers," he continued.

"We have been trying to confirm if it was from one of the paramilitary groups, but whether it was or not, the threat is very serious, especially when a gun has been produced.

"This has caused major concerns from the family and for this young person.

"We have been dealing with things like this for a long time where young people get themselves into debt because drug dealers put major pressure on them especially at times like Christmas or over the summer.

"We've had four cases coming up to Christmas where families have contacted us about loved ones being put under pressure to pay back money.

"I would urge anyone affected by this to seek out help," he added.