‘Legal high’, ecstasy and needle use highest among local drugs patients

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The use of ‘legal highs’, ecstasy and needles was highest among drug users from the Western Trust last year, according to fresh data.

Figures from the Department of Health’s, Drug Misuse Database show half of all drugs service patients (50 per cent) in the Western Trust were recorded as having used ‘any stimulant drug’, the highest anywhere with the exception of prisoners (57 per cent).

Of these, the use of ‘New Psychoactive Substances’, formerly euphemistically dubbed ‘legal highs’, was highest in the Western Trust (22 per cent), far outstripping anywhere else.

Only nine per cent of Northern Trust patients; five per cent of Belfast and Southern Trust patients; two per cent of South Eastern Trust patients; and one per cent of jail inmates, reported using ‘legal highs’, in comparison with more than a fifth of drugs patients here.

Ecstasy was also used by a greater proportion of local users in treatment.

The latest bulletin, which is for the April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, time period and was published on Thursday, revealed how the highest proportions of ecstasy-using patients were in the Western and Southern Trust areas (13 per cent). Thirteen per cent of local patients also reported using methedrone/mephedrone, which was higher than anywhere bar the Southern Trust.

Thirteen per cent of patients in the Western Trust were also reported to have injected drugs: more than any other Trust area and more than in the jail system.

Meanwhile, seven per cent of men and 15 per cent of women took at least one prescribed drug although usage in the Western Trust area was lower than anywhere else. Hypnotic drugs were reportedly used by 78 per cent of patients in the Western Trust. Of these, cannabis was used by 70 per cent and benzodiazepines by 21 per cent. The use of ‘any opioid analgesic drug’, including heroin, stood at 17 per cent in the Western Trust, the lowest reported usage in the North. Five per cent of patients reported using heroin; four per reported using tramadol; three per cent reported using codeine with paracetamol; one per cent reported using codeine; and eight per cent reported using ‘other opiates’.

And the number of drug misuse patients in the Western Trust rose from 300 in 2005/06 to 402 in 2015/16. The Trust accounted for 18 per cent of all patients in the North. Cannabis (70 per cent), cocaine (28 per cent), New Psychoactive Substances (22 per cent) and benzodiazepines (21 per cent), were the most popular drugs among patients.