The sale and abuse of prescription drugs is ripping the heart out of families and communities across Northern Ireland. That’s the view of qualified youth worker, new SDLP South Down MLA Colin McGrath from Downpatrick.
Mr McGrath’s comments come following confirmation from the PSNI that over 10,000 fake diazepam tablets are shipped into communities across the North every week.
He said: “The sale and abuse of prescription drugs is a pandemic that has been afflicting communities across the North for far too long. Predatory dealers are preying on vulnerable young people who end up taking a lethal cocktail of drugs and alcohol, leaving their families and their community heartbroken.
“Barely a month goes by when we aren’t mourning the loss of a young person full of life and with a bright future ahead of them because of the insidious effect of these drugs and those who deal in them. The plea from Ann-Marie Strong today is a powerful testament to the devastating effect that drug abuse can have on a mother and an entire family. My thoughts are with them at this very difficult time as they grieve for Aaron.
“This is a very serious concern for communities across Northern Ireland where fake prescription drugs are flooding in every weekend, fuelling anti-social behaviour, burglaries and other low level, but high personal impact, crimes.
“Questions will rightly be asked of the police and the criminal justice system which has failed to get to grips with the scale of the situation. There are concerned people in communities blighted by drug abuse who are bringing information to the police and are then frustrated when it isn’t dealt with as a priority. Or when drug dealers are arrested and processed by the courts only to be released within a few weeks or a few months. We have communities gripped by fear and they see no lasting deterrent to those taking part in this criminality.
“The PSNI has had successes with drugs’ finds but an ad hoc approach isn’t good enough. We need strategic intervention. If the PSNI isn’t up to the challenge then the National Crime Agency should become involved to tackle the serious organised criminality responsible for importing tens of thousands of drugs every week.
Mr McGrath added: “No other family should be forced through the pain and grief that the Strongs and others are enduring. We must act to address the situation as a matter of urgency.”