Drug abuse has claimed the lives of two people every week in Northern Ireland, the DUP Health Minister has warned.
Edwin Poots said there were 110 drug-related deaths during 2012 – the equivalent of nine a month.
“These figures are quite alarming. This is far too many and totally unacceptable,” said Mr Poots.
Earlier this year, senior Coroner John Leckey said a cluster of drug-related deaths was similar to a serial killer being on the loose.
An estimated 20 people have died after taking stimulants known as “speckled cherries” or “speckled crosses”.
Mr Poots was in Banbridge, Co Down, where 32 per cent of the recent deaths have happened. He met police, community outreach workers and anti-drugs campaigners and urged people to think twice before taking unregulated or illegal substances.
Mr Poots added: “The illegal drugs industry is not regulated and people have absolutely no idea what they are putting into their bodies so I urge people to think again before taking any illegal drugs.”
Meanwhile, Upper Bann MP David Simpson said communities should wake up to the grim reality of drugs.
The Democratic Unionist said: “We are well aware of the damaging effects drugs are having in the Banbridge area, particularly in recent months.
“This should be a wake-up call for us all.”