OVER 100 teenagers have been admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital in the past year for alcohol and drug overdoses.
The latest figures released to the Derry News following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show that in 2018 there were 68 admissions for drugs overdoses and 49 admissions for overdoses caused by alcohol consumption.
Of the drugs overdoses, 34 were categorised as “intentional” involving 19 females and 15 males.
Six of the alcohol overdoses were deemed to be intentional – a 15-year-old male and 17-year-old female ended up with alcohol poisoning.
These figures are a slight drop on previous years but remain a cause for concern amongst health professionals.
Derry GP at Aberfoyle Medical Practice and former Chair of the Royal College of GPs Northern Ireland, John O'kelly, said drug and alcohol misuse remains "significant challenge" for all health professionals.
"This often begins in adolescence and ends up with significant difficulties by the late teens/early twenties. They are a difficult group to engage with as they often see GPs as "authoritarian figures".
"Drug misuse behaviour, as well as affecting the individual, continues to cause distress to the wider family and often leads to criminal type behaviour."
He added: "As for general practice we are still involved in trying to help young people and signpost to these services. One of the biggest problems is in getting young people to engage. The key area is in prevention.
"Mental Health Services remain the "Cinderella" service in health care in Northern Ireland and would benefit from significant investment and restructuring.
"To be fair to the Dept. Health, investment in developing the multi-disciplinary team in general practice is being made. This will lead to practices having an attached social worker and mental health worker which, hopefully, will allow us to improve our service."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) said: “If a young person is treated in our Emergency Department for alcohol or drug misuse they will be referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and then signposted to mainstream CAMHS for specialist Drugs and Alcohol Intervention.”
If you are concerned about your own substance use or that of a friend or family member, help is available from:
HURT (Have Your Tomorrows) www.hurtni.org.uk or call 028 7136 9696, www.start360.org or call on 028 7137 1162, www.divertproject.com or telephone 028 7126 9327 or Free call Lifeline’s 24-hour helpline: 0808 808 8000
If you’re 19-years-old and older Northlands Helpline Number is: 028 71313232. Other support services are also available.

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