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CRYSTAL METH MENACE NOW ON ULSTER STREETS; RUSSIAN MAFIA BOSSES BEHIND NEW SCOURGE; Double addiction as heroin used to soften crushing comedown; Belfast & Antrim hit as dealers 'cook up' drug; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: JILLY BEATTIE

DEADLY batches of crystal meth are being cooked up by growing numbers of drug users in Northern Ireland, the Mirror can reveal.

And the drug is so potent, it takes a hit of heroin to ease the harrowing comedown - making it twice as dangerous.

Each fix of methamphetamine delivers an intoxicating and unnatual high followed by a crushing low - the effects of which are normally reduced by the immediate use of a heroin.

Now Belfast and Antrim are in the grip of this pernicious substance and its aftereffects with its popularity spreading rapidly north initially from central Dublin just in the last year.

Tracy Bell, who runs the GUS rehabilitation service, said: "Geographical studies used by drug support groups show that currently there are more drug dealers in the Lisburn Road area of South Belfast than any other area of Northern Ireland and crystal meth is one of the drugs causing most alarm.

"It's here and it's here to stay for as long as users can get their hands on it.

"Crystal meth is one of the most addictive drugs ever dealt on the black market and its effect on users is devastating.

"We have seen the number of users increase quite dramatically in the last 12 months and it has now gotten a grip in Belfast and Antrim.

"We have families coming forward seeking help for loved ones who have spiralled into addiction and we have individuals desperate to try to come off it. Every crystal meth user I know is also using heroin to try to soften the crashing low which follows the incredible high.

"So people using crystal meth will take a hit of heroin about five minutes afterwards to stop the collapse.

"Then they're left struggling with feeding two addictions and effects on their mind and body. People seem to think nothing like crystal meth would be in a place like Northern Ireland but the reality is quite the opposite.

"One of the tell-tale signs of a crystal meth user is skin scabs, particularly on the face. They tend to pick at their skin and for some reason they target the face first. So while some people can get away with taking drugs and on the surface appear like they're living a normal lie, crystal meth leaves its fingerprint on them physically. It's devastating.

"It may sound hopeless for people like me trying to help addicts because the addiction to this drug is so powerful, but I feel there is always hope."

Russian mafia bosses are currently working a patch in South Belfast and around the Lisburn Road, selling crystal meth on a daily basis.

But local dealers are also "cooking up" crystal meth in home-grown labs in residential areas.

One source said: "Russian mafia have based themselves in South Belfast in small but effective numbers. They are a tight group but work with everyone from immigrants to local dealers and users.

"They'll take anyone's money and they're like ghosts. They leave no trace either on phones or deals but they're here 'working' among us in some of the nicest areas of Belfast.

"It seems they settled in the area because in the first place there's a high level of transitory residents and secondly, it's an area known for a high turnover of cash in terms of shops and cafes.

"They know to target the rich and the desperate and that's exactly what they do right on our doorstep.

"Dealers tend to know their audience and try to sell for 'lunch money' of between PS5 and PS10. The younger the target the better for the dealers.

"If a teenager develops a drug problem, the biological brain changes are likely to remain in place so in time they face coming off drugs for good or risk fullblown addiction.

"No one goes out to become a drug addict or any type but that's exactly what any drug dealer wants."

Meth affects the central nervous system and is said to give the most intense high. It is manufactured by "cooking" with red phosphorus and hydriodic acid. The meth is then dried and mixed to create rocks or crystals.

jilly.beattie@trinitymirror.com

Russian mafia have based themselves in South Belfast SOURCE on targeting of lisburn road

CAPTION(S):

RAVAGED Faces of meth addicts are sign of use

CLEAR DANGER Crystals are extremely powerful

SLANG Crystal meth known as ice
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 26, 2018
Words:733
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