Published Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Equipment used in the manufacture of crystal meth. (© Getty)
Drug dealers are understood to be targeting children as young as 13 and parents have said crystal meth is among the illegal substances being offered.
Crystal meth or methamphetamine is a highly addictive Class A drug which carries a maximum jail term for possession of seven years or life for supplying.
One distraught mother, who did not want to be identified, told UTV she had been forced to put her 14-year-old son into care while he battles a drug addiction.
The final straw was when her son held a knife to his throat and threatened to slash it if she didn't hand over the savings book he needed to release much needed funds for drugs.
"I just couldn't handle him anymore and I was very afraid of something happening to him maybe him ending up in a brown box," she said.
Doctor Claire Armstrong, from Addiction Northern Ireland, says "it would be a very dangerous drug for anybody to take of any age."
However, she added that the agency would not see very many cases of people addicted to crystal meth in the region.
She believes the substance on offer may be mephedrone or another legal high that looks like crystals when it is shown to a person.
"That is a possibility and rather than it being called mephedrone it is being called meth," she added.
"We have seen over the course of time that drugs like mephedrone have been taken in Northern Ireland [resulting in] very dangerous effects."
She continued: "It is a serious issue when young people are being offered these drugs."
Church leaders have been involved in the talks aimed at uniting residents against dealers.
"It's not just free drugs," Church of Ireland minister Rev Andrew Rawding said.
"We've had parents say it's free alcohol that their children are given first and after the alcohol, the drugs come. We have parents talking about people pulling up in cars and producing alcohol - it's very concerning."
Father Paul Byrne said the police need to do more to clamp down on those supplying the drugs.
"The community is angry and frustrated and they see these drug dealers wantonly selling drugs on the street in daylight," he said.
"So far we've been very fortunate that we haven't lost a teenager to death through drugs and we want to prevent that from happening."
The local priest said he had been informed that dealers are driving through the town meeting young people in very public places offering them a variety of drugs including heroin.
There's also a strong belief in the community that the police could do more.
Fr Byrne said: "They feel that they're not responding to the calls that are put in and, if they do respond, they're not responding quickly enough."
In a statement, a PSNI spokesman said that the issue was being taken seriously by police who have been carrying out"intelligence-led searches, not only in Coalisland, but across the borough" in recent months.
Officers say they have made "significant" seizures and arrests in connection with the illegal drugs trade.
© UTV News