PARENTS across the borough are being warned about the dangers of the drug ‘spice’ that is finding its way into the hands of children as young as 12, mostly through vapes.

Under 18s are being targeted, according to a local councillor who has witnessed the devastating impact on the young people who use it, often unwittingly.

Independent Newtownards councillor Steven Irvine has raised the issue after witnessing the dreadful impact of the drug on a 14 year-old girl who is currently trying to wean herself off it. 

Mr Irvine said the girl’s experience of the dangerous drug marked ‘a concerning trend’, prompting him to raise the issue with the Health Minister.

“I have seen with my own eyes the state it causes with young people and have passed names and information to PSNI. It is extremely hard to stop as it is available through social media. 

“It’s under 18s who are being targeted, with local schools being affected as well with young people bringing it into school. It comes in liquid form to pour into vapes,” he warned.

Speaking of the young teenager’s ordeal, Mr Irvine said the child was first offered the drug in school, then again on the streets of the town. 

Her parents said the drug made their daughter ‘very lethargic and so drowsy’, and that it has badly affected her self-confidence ‘making her want to take more and more, frequently’. 

Her family spoke of the isolation the girl has suffered since becoming hooked on spice. 

“The lack of socialising, especially around family, has made her become very isolated. She’s not eating meals at the right times and has a severe loss of appetite which is causing her to lose weight,” said Mr Irvine.

“She is struggling to wean herself off this horrible drug and has become very moody in and around the house, not wanting to circulate, or carry out normal everyday tasks. 

“As parents we advise others to be vigilant of what is out there on our streets and look out for the signs when your children come home at night.”

The concerned parents said the child started to use spice in a vape, before being offered it in an oil substance, given to her in a small bottle, adding they were aware that children as young as 12 were using it.

Mr Irvine is now encouraging people to take action if they become aware of children using the drug, and those distributing it, to report it to the police.

“Additionally, community education and outreach efforts can help raise awareness about the dangers of spice and provide support for individuals struggling with addiction. 

Mr Irvine has set up a meeting with the local health trust ‘to see what they can do to help young people with this, as I am led to understand there is no real help for under 18s’. 

The councillor is also reaching out to Health Minister Robin Swan looking a meeting with either him or his team to talk about provision for these young people using this vile drug, also about provision for vulnerable young people and respite for parents’.

The Public Health Agency first issued warnings about the dangers of spice back in May 2021.

Police in Ards and North Down have confirmed they have received two reports in relation to this matter within schools, where pupils were offered synthetic drugs.

“Enquiries are ongoing in relation to these reports, and Neighbourhood Policing Team officers will continue to visit local schools to warn of the dangers involved in vaping substances that do not come from reputable retailers,” a statement said.

“Officers will also be reminding people that persons under 18 years of age should not be using vape devices as their sale is prohibited to anyone under 18.”