A Down Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) conference highlighting the impact of drug misuse on our communities has been hailed as “a huge success” by PCSP Chairperson Councillor Carmel O’Boyle.
Over 100 people from community organisations, public bodies, and members of the public attended the session on Monday 19 November 2012 in the Great Hall in the Downshire Estate in Downpatrick.
Councillor O’Boyle said: “I am delighted at the number of people who turned out this evening to hear about the devastation drugs can have on families and communities and the support that is available for those wishing to change things for the better. This has been an excellent first public discussion forum for the Partnership who want to continue providing advice and support to the people of Down District on a wide range of safety matters.”
The conference delegates enjoyed a performance of extracts from the play called Popping Candy which was performed by actors from Spanner in the Works Theatre Company. The play is a hard-hitting drama which explores the complex and controversial issues around drug misuse it also shines a spotlight on the mental health problems facing our young people today.
Conference delegates also heard presentations from leading drugs experts from the PSNI, ASCERT and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.
PSNI Inspector Andy Dunlop explained: “We focus our law enforcement activities on those engaged in the importation, supply and distribution of controlled drugs and use all lawful methods and tactics to apprehend and prosecute the people involved. The public can be assured that the PSNI is working tirelessly in order to reduce the potential harm being caused to people from controlled and prescription drugs, by seizing these drugs before they reach the streets. Our work has taken us to many counties this year alone across Europe and across the world.
“Enforcement is one strand of a much wider strategy aimed at tackling the issue of drug misuse throughout Northern Ireland. We continue to work with partner agencies who primarily focus on the education, prevention and treatment aspects of the problem. The PSNI continues to encourage members of the public to report any information regarding controlled drugs to their local police on 0845 600 8000 or alternatively to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”
Also speaking at the conference, Gary McMichael of the substance abuse counselling organisation ASCERT said: “Drugs can have a very complex effect on you and it can all lead to problems with your mental and sexual health. Responsible behaviour is the way forward and it has to be encouraged and supported to tackle the drugs problem.”
Ed Sipler, Health Promotion Consultant, said that the biggest legal drug was alcohol, and that the average age for experimenting with it initially was 12 years old. He emphasised the need to get the message out to young people particularly that it was alright to talk about their problems, that they were not alone in facing up their issues and that there is help out there.
During the discussion, it was noted that cocaine that could fetch a price of £60,000 on the street, is often debased, and DI Andy Dunlop said: “As ‘cutting’ takes place, we see the purity of cocaine ranging from 1% to 89%. This is a very significant issue for the health of the users. There is a big incentive to debase the cocaine for profit by adding other dangerous substances.”
Before the conference started, there were a number of stands providing information and booklets etc on how to combat the spread of drugs.