Pubdate: Tue, 30 May 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407

The seven recent deaths of heroin users from unidentified causes is not
deterring people from using the drug, counsellors in Dublin have said. They
are "just waiting for another death" as a result of the unidentified cause,
they added.

Meanwhile, some 70 drug users came forward for assessment in the Eastern
Regional Health Authority area in the past few days, a spokeswomen has

They anticipated a significant increase in this figure in the coming week,
she added.

Mr Tony Geoghegan, of the Merchant's Quay Project, said the recent deaths
were not making any difference to the numbers taking the drug.

"Ah no, it's in drug-users' nature to use, whatever the risks," he said. The
information coming from media reports "was very confusing" to any member of
the general public, he said, adding that reports in Sunday papers that the
deaths were caused by pure heroin were in conflict with the "read" officials
from the Eastern Regional Health Authority had on the situation.

"If it's pure, people just overdose and go over, but this seems to be being
caused by infection, whether it's bacterial infection or otherwise."

Ms Sadie Grace, of the Citywide Campaign Against Drugs, said young people
were using "as much as ever".

"Of course they are," she said. "And of course they know about the deaths,
but it's not going to stop them. It is an awful worry."

Mr Andre Lyder, a community activist in the south inner-city - which has the
highest per capita number of young male drug users in the State - said the
recent deaths "wouldn't make any difference to people who feel they need to
take heroin every day. It might deter some novice users but people are
certainly `banging up'.

"It is a major cause of concern and certainly we are just waiting for
another heroin death of unknown causes. Of course, about two a week are
dying of drugs in this area anyway, but this is an added worry, especially
when we don't know what's causing it."

At least two of the people who died are believed to have come from the
Crumlin area and to have bought the heroin from the Gallanstown/Ballyfermot
area of west Dublin.

Ms Susan Collins, of Crumlin Addiction Response, said yesterday that her
organisation had advised clients that there was either pure or contaminated
heroin in circulation and to smoke rather than inject if possible.

"But we haven't had any update or heard anything new," she said, adding that
young addicts were using as much as they had been before the deaths. A
spokeswoman for the Eastern Regional Health Authority said it was continuing
its investigation into the seven deaths.

It has been confirmed that one woman and six men have died of unknown causes
following the injection of heroin since May 1st. Ms Kristey Murray, an
official from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, US,
carried out her first day of investigations into the possible causes of the
deaths yesterday.

She will be working with the National Disease Surveillance Centre as well as
with the ERHA and the Garda.

A free-phone helpline for drug users concerned about their symptoms can be
reached on 1800 459 459.
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