SDLP West Belfast Assembly candidate Paul Doherty has said a strategy is needed to address the large numbers of drug deaths in deprived areas.
He was speaking after a new report from the Department of Health revealed people in the North’s most deprived areas are over four and a half times more likely to die of drug related causes than those in the least deprived.
People in deprived areas are also four times more likely to die as a result of alcohol, while self-harm admissions to hospital are treble that of the least deprived areas.
West Belfast candidate Mr Doherty said:
“People in West Belfast know all too well the damage that drugs and alcohol have caused to countless families in our community. All too often we see people dying at far too young an age, with drug and alcohol problems being a contributing factor and it just isn’t acceptable that people who live in certain areas are so much more likely to die from this than in more affluent places.
“If we are ever going to truly address these issues than we need to address the underlying problems that are contributing to these awful statistics. Drug and alcohol abuse are often a symptom of the mental health problems that have wreaked havoc among people right across the North. The lack of proper mental health provision leaves many people feeling they have nowhere else to turn and we know from bitter experience that many turn to these substances as a crutch.
“It’s no coincidence that Foyle, North Belfast and West Belfast have some of the highest levels of poverty of anywhere on these islands and this is a huge contributing factor to these deaths. If we want to see a reversal in these damning statistics then we need to see proper healthcare in place for people dealing with addiction and mental health issues, alongside action to address the huge unemployment and lack of investment in these areas, the scarcity of social and affordable housing and poor educational opportunities that leave many people feeling trapped in a cycle of destruction they cannot escape from.”