1. ITV Report

NI hospital sees 300% spike in drug overdoses

Drug addiction is being blamed for the deaths of 14 people in NI in the last two months alone. Credit: UTV

Amid a growing problem with drug addiction in Northern Ireland, one Belfast hospital has had to deal with 170 overdoses in just two months – a 300% spike on the previous year.

Medics and campaigners hope they are not fighting a losing battle, but the figures are alarming.

And UTV understands two more lives have been lost to heroin within the last few days.

  • EXCLUSIVE: Sharon O'Neill reports on NI's growing problem with drug addiction

Only last week, the parents of 23-year-old Belfast woman Emma Nolan became the latest devastated family to speak out.

The young mum died of multiple organ failure after suffering a seizure.

UTV can now reveal she was one of 14 people to die in Northern Ireland over the past two months due to addiction.

The figure of 170 overdoses in June and July this year alone is shocking, rising significantly from 58 during the same period last year.

But it only relates to the Emergency Department at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and does not paint the whole picture.

Emergency departments across Northern Ireland are having to deal with the fall-out of the spiralling drug problem.

Consultant Brendan Sinnott has worked in emergency medicine for 30 years and says the addiction problem now is worse than he has ever seen.

“Last week, we had eight in one day - eight overdoses,” he said.

A major part of the problem is also the concoctions of drugs people are taking.

What we’re seeing now is young people, otherwise healthy, addicted to drugs and they’re buying them on the street - they don’t even know what they’re buying.

– Consultant Brendan Sinnott

The treatment for the reversal of opioid drugs like heroin, for example, cannot be used if a patient has also taken prescription sedatives as it can lead to seizures.

The lasting effects of an overdose can be catastrophic – even if the patient survives.

“If there’s a lack of oxygen to the brain, that speaks for itself,” Mr Sinnott said.

“They’ll have neurological problems, some of them may end up in a vegetative state, or they have some degree of cognitive knock-off …

“They may need then supportive living, some of them may never work again.

“And the pain and the cost, not only to the individual, but to the extended family is enormous.”

Many are working hard to try to help people turn their back on drugs, but services remain stretched and families are being left shattered by the consequences.

  • WATCH: Sharon O'Neill on the latest heroin deaths in NI in just the last few days

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