'A drugs pandemic has exploded in Belfast' community worker tells UTV

A community work, who helps addicts in Belfast, has told UTV a drugs pandemic has exploded in the city.

Over the weekend a young woman was found dead near Writers Square in the city centre.

So far this year 14 people have died on the streets of Belfast.

Brian Madden says "there is a huge pandemic in drugs use and when you tie that in with mental health, it’s an explosion that was always ready to go off and it appears it now has."

"We are exploding with the number of people coming in, the number of people filling in forms is through the roof, and we have never seen a rise like it."

Deaths on the streets of Belfast are nothing new, however the concentration in recent weeks have caused concern.

Those on the ground are seeing trends emerge.

Iain Cameron, Extern Harm Reduction Service Manager, says "what we are seeing now is poly-drug use, it's the combination of drugs like heroin, benzodiazepine and alcohol and that adds up in someone’s systems and increases the risk of overdose."

So who is responsible for tackling the issue? Perhaps the problem lies with the fact that multiple agencies are involved.

The PSNI says "they are aware of the ongoing issues with drug miss-use in Belfast city centre," adding they have a clear focus on the risk and harm resulting from illicit drugs.

The Department for Health says "in recognising there is a growing issue, work is underway to develop a new strategic plan for substance use services."

The Department for communities "addiction is a deeply complex issue adding the minister is committed to ensuring housing support services are in place that enables the delivery of wraparound services."

Amid all the talk of strategies there is one solution that has proven successful elsewhere.

Extern argues for an overdose prevention facility.

Mr Cameron says "that's somewhere people can go and use drugs safely where there are staff who can reverse an overdose and keep people alive.

"There are hundreds of these facilities across Europe and there hasn't been one death."


There are now visible signs across the city of what was once a hidden problem.

These deaths aren't happening behind closed doors.

They're happening in full view, in very public places.

Police tents are becoming an all too familiar sight.

Floral tributes on park benches and street corners indicate a pattern.

The reality though there's no one size fits all,

Each of these deaths have their own set of circumstances.

When we talk about the 12th, 13th and 14th death it's easy to forget you are talking about more than just a statistic.

Community workers are keen to stress these are people with families who are now mourning.