‘Cocaine can kill’

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NORTHERN Ireland’s Public Health Agency has backed calls from the Coroner’s Office for young people to stay away from cocaine and alcohol or “risk fatal heart damage”.

The warning comes hard on the heels of an inquest into the death of 29-year-old father-of-two, Daryl Black, who died after taking a cocktail of drink, drugs and amphetamines at an all night party.

Our report of the inquest last week was picked by health experts in Belfast who fear a repeat of the incident on a larger scale.

A spokesperson for Public Health said the young man’s tragic death from cocaine highlighted “the very significant risks associated with cocaine use.”

PR Officer Clare Dolan, told The Times: “While the use of cocaine has increased in Northern Ireland, particularly in the past 10 years, it remains a drug that is consumed by a small percentage of the population.”

“Cocaine use is low in Northern Ireland compared to use of alcohol or cannabis. However, given the serious adverse health effects of cocaine, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is monitoring the situation closely,” she revealed.

Findings from the Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2010/11 survey are expected in late 2011 which will give a more accurate picture of the extent of cocaine use across Northern Ireland.

The most recently published prevalence rates are from the Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2006/2007 survey.

The survey indicated that lifetime use of cocaine increased among all adults aged 15–64, from 1.6% in 2002/3 to 5.2% in 2006/7, with the use of cocaine being more common among younger adults as highlighted in the Daryl Black case.

The spokeswoman concluded by advising anyone with concerns about cocaine use - whether personal or familial - to get in touch with their GP.

“He or she can provide help and support. But more importantly they can refer you on to more specialist help if it is required,” added Clare.