PSYCHOACTIVE: “Legal highs” still big problem here


MORE drug users are injecting here than in any other part of the North, while we also have a major problem with so called “legal highs” compared to other areas, statistics released by the Department of Health have revealed.
The figures from the NI Drug Misuse Database for April 2015-March 2016, which were released last week, show the number of people presenting for problem drug misuse in the Western Trust has risen from 300 to 402 over the past ten years, 18 percent of the total number of clients seeking treatment across the North.
Overall, cannabis was the most commonly used drug in the Western Trust, with 70 percent of clients reported using it. With regard other substances, 21 percent reported using benzodiazepines.
Both cannabis and benzodiazepines figures were in a similar range to other Trust areas.

When it comes to stimulants, however, the Western Trust had the highest number of users compared to other areas. A total of 50 percent of those seeking treatment in the Western Trust said they used a stimulant such as cocaine, ecstasy or methedrone.
New psychoactive substances are also included in this category. Use of these drugs here in the west was high above their prevalence in other Trusts, with 22 percent of Western Trust clients admitting to their use compared to five percent in Belfast, nine percent in the Northern Trust, two percent in the South East, and five percent in the Southern Trust.
Use of opioids, which can include prescription drugs such as Tramadol and codeine as well as “harder” substances such as heroin, the Western Trust was at the bottom of the list, with 17 percent of clients using these drugs compared to 28 percent in the Northern Trust.

Strangely, while use of heroin in the Western Trust was second lowest in the North, at five percent, the statistics show those who presented for treatment here were more likely to have injected drugs. A total of 13 percent of Western Trust clients said they’d injected in the past, the highest percent in any Trust area.
The information was gathered from 2,229 people who presented to services with problem drug misuse across the North. Of all those included in the survey, 40 percent took just one drug, 23 percent took two, while 19 percent to four or more drugs.
Most of those, 79 percent, of those seeking treatment were male, and the men tended to be younger than the women. Of the males, 35 percent were aged 18-25 and just 17 percent were over 40.
Of the women, 32 per-cent were aged over 40.


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