According to estimates from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), there were 218 drug-related deaths in 2020, up from 92 in 2010.
A total of 55 deaths have been related to heroin and morphine. Cocaine-related deaths soared to 36 in 2020, the highest number ever recorded.
Tierna Murray, a 20-year-old Poleglass lady, died on December 12, 2021, after battling cocaine addiction.
Tierna had the “largest heart” and had assisted her friends through “difficult times,” according to her mother, Cathy.
“She always went above and beyond for everybody else,” she said.
Tierna had worked full-time at Glenparent Daycare, was saving for a nail technician course, and was learning to drive before lockdown. However, her life changed when she started using cocaine.
“Lockdown came and she was drinking in people’s houses, going to these wee kitchen parties where she was there all night and somebody pulls a bag of something out,” Cathy explained.
Cathy said Tierna, whose work usually ensured she had money to spare, began borrowing money from relatives who were at the time unaware of her drug habit.
“She started going round asking everybody for money and the time you don’t really think, ‘what’s this about?'” Cathy explained.
“Then she was going out all night and not coming back at the weekend, and it was only ever a weekend thing. She worked Monday to Friday and she didn’t drink during the week. It was a one night thing at the weekend.
“That summer past she started having a couple of personal problems. To me she was going off the rails a wee bit. I had conversations with her saying ‘you really need to stop this’.”
The mum-of-four said her daughter had tried to stop using drugs before her death, but in the end “couldn’t say no”.
“If she had alcohol in her system she couldn’t say no,” she said. “She was trying so hard to stop. Even coming up to Christmas she tried to get a weekend job.”
Speaking of her family’s devastation, Cathy’s mum said: “Our lives are absolutely destroyed. Her father and his wife are absolutely destroyed. They don’t have any other children, Tierna was their only child. She was my only daughter, my first born child. She has three little brothers – Steven’s 14, he’s autistic and he’s just saying he has no emotion any more – he’s just absolutely destroyed.”
“It’s just horrible,” she continued. “There’s no words to even say what we’re going through. She was full of life one minute and gone the next.
“I have to live on this earth for 40-odd years without seeing my child.”
It’s like somebody put their hands through my flesh and bones and ripped my heart out.
“With the amount deaths and suicides from drugs in these areas people just think ‘that’s another one’. People need to understand that it’s not just another one, because these kids have mothers, and fathers, and brothers, and sisters, and grannies, and grandas, and cousins, and aunts, and uncles. It doesn’t stop. The ripple effect doesn’t stop. All our lives are ruined now.
“I can’t find happiness anywhere. I have other children and I have to get up every day and wash them, feed them, clothe them and try to act normal. The inside of me is gone. I feel empty.
“It’s like somebody put their hands through my flesh and bones and ripped my heart out.
She added: “It’s absolutely soul destroying -– all we have are photographs and memories.”
Cathy admits she was unsurprised by the latest NISRA statistics, stating that “nobody is doing anything” to help those suffering from addiction.
“Everybody knows who’s doing it (drug dealing),” she stated. “There’s too much money in this drug business.
“People are getting their hands greased left right and centre, and nobody cares about these kids who are dropping dead.”
As well as figures about illicit drugs, NISRA’s report also includes shocking statistics about deaths from prescription drug use. Diazepam was involved in 23.4 per cent of all drug-related deaths in 2020.
Deaths involving Pregabalin rose from nine in 2016 to 77 in 2019. The figure has reduced slightly to 70 in 2020.
The statistics also indicate that there are notably higher numbers of drug-related deaths in areas of deprivation across the North. People living in the most deprived areas are almost five times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those in the least deprived areas.