Pubdate: Wed, 03 Nov 2004
Source: Goldstream Gazette (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Goldstream Gazette
Author: Rick Stiebel
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


"Crystal meth is an epidemic and it's headed your way," says an expert in 
the field who will speak at a local drug information night for parents Nov. 
9. "It's a phenomenon that's much broader than a particular municipality or 

Steve Freng, a prevention and treatment manager for the Northwest High 
Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in Washington State, knows all too well of 
what he speaks, having watched the phenomenon of crystal meth unfold in his 

"I've been in the business for 30 years," said Freng, who holds a Psy.D. in 
the field of treatment and prevention. "I've never seen anything rise as 
quickly and as explosively, with a whole range of issues that follow. I 
consider it an epidemic creeping into every available community in North 

He said that's in sharp contrast to three or four years ago, when most 
people wouldn't know how to spell crystal methamphetamine.

"It's the perfect North American drug," Freng said. "It makes you thin, 
gives you energy, and you can cook it in your kitchen," he said. Freng said 
small, clandestine labs typically show up in the early stages in rural 
areas first.

"Given it's proclivity for crack cocaine and other drugs, meth was a little 
later arriving," Freng said. "Given the economics, the availability of 
chemicals to make it and the demographics of rural vs. larger urban areas, 
the increase in meth labs across the State happened so remarkably fast, and 
with such completely uninterrupted consequences, we're still in the process 
of catching up."

Freng said by 1998, there were 300-400 labs in Washington, a total that 
quickly mushroomed to 1,890 by 2001.

While the number of labs has dropped a little to 1,480 in 2003, authorities 
are now deluged with the consequences of dealing with crystal meth 
addiction, he said.

"It's different than anything I've ever seen," Freng said. "It's incredibly 
seductive and destructive."

"We're definitely seeing an increase in crystal meth and cocaine on the 
West Shore," said West Shore RCMP Cpl. Brian Kerr, who heads the 
detachment's street crime unit. "I get calls every week from parents asking 
about signs and symptoms of meth and coke use."

Kerr said meth use is skyrocketing in downtown Victoria, and the first 
phases have been showing up on the West Shore during the last two years.

Freng said it raises different issues than other addictions, such as 
children exposed to meth or raised in labs, and meth-related births from 
women using while they're pregnant.

"Anyone who knows what they're doing can run a lab out of the trunk of a 
car," Freng said, adding that dump sites are as much of an issue as 
addiction treatment.

"For every pound of meth produced, there's five pounds of toxic waste," 
Freng said. "They flush it down toilets, or pour it down a hole in the 
ground," Freng said. "The people who run labs aren't exactly concerned if 
it gets into the water table."

He said equally alarming is the fact that one third of the labs with their 
volatile, explosive chemicals are in areas where there are children. 
Another problem is the resources required to take down a lab.

"If the police know some guy is dealing heroin, it takes three officers to 
take him down," Freng said. "With a meth lab, you need a SWAT team and 
hazardous materials personnel."

Fortunately, due to an enormous education campaign and more resources and 
police, communities are more knowledgeable in recognizing evidence of labs 
and big cooking operations.

Kerr urges parents to attend the free drug information night at 7 p.m. at 
the Isabelle Reader Theatre, the third of which the West Shore RCMP have 
organized in the past three years.

"We want to increase awareness about drug use," Kerr said. "And find 
solutions for the problems we're all going to face."

Other speakers include a discussion on drug awareness with Cpl. Scott 
Rintoul from the Vancouver RCMP, Gabriella Reuben, a Victoria teenager 
recovering from crystal meth addiction and her mother, Joanne Reuben, who 
will discuss the problem from a mother's point of view and Dunsmuir Middle 
School principal Daphne Churchill.
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