People living on the streets of Belfast have said it is now as easy to buy drugs as it is to buy a can of beer from an off-licence.
One man told UTV he could get drugs delivered to him within seconds.
As part of a special investigation, UTV joined staff from the Welcome Organisation - who spend the nights on the streets of Belfast helping the homeless and those struggling with drug dependency.
Since June, 15 people have died on the city’s streets from drug-related causes. Since the start of the year, that number is 34.
And those that are hooked on drugs - and the organisations providing support - say the situation is only getting worse.
“I’d say the past month it’s been ridiculous,” Billy, a drug addict, told UTV.
“It’s so easy to get drugs now and when you’re on the street you’ll do anything to get through the night. So even people that wouldn’t have used drugs or were anti-drugs, when you end up on the street you end up on drugs.
“Years ago, when I first started on the streets, it was really glue and stuff and magic marker, but now it’s real hardcore drugs – crack cocaine, coke and heroin.”
At one point, when UTV was out in the city centre, a taxi dropped off a package of drugs.
Billy said he could get drugs within two seconds.
"It’s as easy as going to the off-licence. That’s how easy it is now.”
Andrej is also homeless and sleeping on Belfast’s streets.
“I haven’t been living on the streets, I’ve been surviving on the streets. I’ve been hostel, street, hostel, street for the last five years,” he said.
“It’s easier for me to get a bag of heroin than it is to get a bag of grass. That’s how bad it is. All the heroin addicts then turn to coke and they are shooting it up.”
Both are aware of the risk they could be the next death on the city’s streets.
“It could be me in an instant. Every time I take that drug, I don’t think about it until after the drug is in me and I’m like ‘wow, how lucky am I I’m still alive,” said Billy.
“Two or three weeks ago, 19-year-old Jordan in the car park, we both went for a use together and I had my back to her and when I turned round she was grey and her lips were blue and she died.”
Andrej said: “I lost my mate Paddy, I lost my mate Dean….it is hard to talk about that it really is, because I was with Paddy. As soon as he came out of jail he was clean, he was built like a tank, and we went for lunch and the next day he’s dead.”
For more information:
The Public Health Agency has a range of services offering support for addiction. To find a service near you, visit: https://drugsandalcoholni.info/
Mental health crisis helpline Lifeline can be contacted on 0808 808 8000.
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