Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 17:48 UK

Father blames mephedrone for son's death

Drugs experts liken mephedrone to amphetamines

The father of a County Down teenager has said he believes that mephedrone played a role in his son's death.

UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson said that the drug would be banned within weeks, with legislation being introduced to Parliament on Tuesday.

Jamie McKee, 17, from Bangor, took his own life at the weekend. Michael McKee said they believed taking the drug had affected Jamie's judgement.

"We didn't really know what this was until a few months ago," he said.

"Then to find out that this is available out there I don't understand how something can develop like that.

"Jamie isn't here to speak for himself, but I do feel that that is what started him and affected his judgement."

He said that more advice was needed for parents on how to notice changes in teenagers when they were abusing substances.

They are awaiting the results of a post mortem examination and investigation into the cause of his death.

The headmaster of the young man's school, Bangor Grammar, said the school community had been deeply saddened by the death

Stephen Connolly said Jamie was an able student.

Mephedrone flyer
The drug, widely available at present, will be classified as Class B

"Jamie was a lively, charming and able student who, with the support of his loving family and the school's pastoral staff, was coping manfully with the difficulties in his life," he said.

"We were confident that he would fulfil his considerable potential at A Level and, subsequently, at university. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Northern Ireland's Health Minister Michael McGimpsey welcomed the decision to make the drug illegal.

"Legal highs such as mephedrone clearly pose a serious risk to the physical and mental health of our young people," he said.

"I am pleased that the home secretary has promised to act quickly to ban this dangerous drug in order to protect people from harm."

He said that while the ban would reinforce the message that such drugs were not safe "it will not be long before other drugs are manufactured to replace it".

"Young people and parents must be made aware about the risks of taking these legal highs," he said.

"My officials continue to work with health professionals, education and the Northern Ireland Office to look at what further action we need to take in this area to ensure that the public are informed about the dangers those drugs pose."

There have been at least 18 deaths in England where cathinones - the group of drugs which mephedrone falls into - have been implicated the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said last week.

A further seven deaths in Scotland have been linked to the drugs.

In Northern Ireland a number of recent suicides have been reportedly linked to depression caused by misuse of mephedrone.

However, the legal high has not been definitively established as a cause of death.

On Monday the council recommended they be classified as a Class B drugs.

Class B drugs, which include cannabis and amphetamines, carry a maximum sentence of five years for possession or 14 years for supply.

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