Northern Ireland

Parents call for 'legal high' ban after Adam Owens' death

Adam Owens Image copyright other
Image caption Adam Owens died on Monday, he had been taking legal high drugs for about three years

The parents of a teenager from County Down who was found dead have called for a ban on "legal high" drugs.

Adam Owens, 17, was discovered on Monday, lying on grass outside a house in Bristol Park in the Westwinds estate, Newtownards.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance but pronounced dead a short time later.

His parents said the drugs transformed him "from a happy intelligent young man into a suicidal teenager".

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Media captionAdam Owens' parents called for legal highs to be banned after his death

His father, Carl, and his stepmother, Dawn Carlile, said the drugs changed their son so that "he didn't care about anything".

Now, they want legal high drugs banned and agencies to work together to support teenagers like Adam.

It is understood Adam had been using the drugs for three years and his family had been trying to get him help.

"He had suicidal thoughts, he was self harming, he couldn't think straight, he was getting into trouble with the police.

"He ended up in hospital two or three times all because of legal highs," Carl Owens said.

"Why are they selling drugs that kill our kids. Why is it legal? You can shop for it like a pint of milk.

"We were told there was nothing in place to help 16 and 17 year olds. If he had been 18, he could have got help."

Police are investigating the death and a post-mortem examination is to be carried out. But his parents believe legal highs killed him.

In July 2013, Sean-Paul Carnahan, 22, died five months after he had been admitted to a Belfast hospital with a brain injury.

Mr Carnahan, from Beechmount, west Belfast, had tried to take his own life.

Image copyright Justin Kernoghan
Image caption Police at the scene of Adam Owens' death in the Westwinds estate, Newtownards

He had been a regular user of legal highs and was left brain-damaged by the suicide attempt.

His mother, Tracy, said that after he took the drugs his personality began to change.

She said he had made a number of suicide attempts. Police inquiries into his death are ongoing.

Legal highs are synthetic drugs that can be bought online and, sometimes, in shops.

They are often created in laboratories in the Far East and are rushed to European and other markets before authorities have time to ban them.

Several deaths in the UK have been linked to legal highs.

More than 200 of the substances have been banned since the coalition government came to power in 2010.

In the Republic of Ireland, "legal high" drugs are banned by law.

Emergency legislation was put forward in March after a loophole in the law meant that it was legal to possess drugs such as ecstasy, crystal meth and ketamine.

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