Pubdate: Tue, 23 Nov 2004
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Author: Edward Hill
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Crystal methamphetamine goes by many names -- crank, tweak, ice or
just meth. It feels euphoric, over stimulating the nervous system for
days. Use is growing among teenagers, especially young girls and it is
simply the most dangerous, addictive drug available on the street
today. And it's here to stay.

That was the message at a public information forum in Nanaimo last
week, outlining how the meth economy is no longer the domain of
decaying U.S. inner cities, or Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

"This little package looks harmless," said Nanaimo RCMP Const. Beth
Blackburn, pointing to a picture of a bag of grainy, white powder. It
has become the engine pushing a gamut of social ills: girls falling
into the sex trade, psychosis, violent behaviour, crime, and suicide.

"Over the past year the street drug unit has had a 30 per cent
increase in meth seizures," Blackburn said. "We are now seeing coke
addicts turn to the drug. It's cheap and has a longer high."

It's that long high -- up to 12 hours depending on the dose -- and
side effects drawing in more and more teenagers. Girls with
self-esteem issues start taking crystal meth due to rapid weight loss.
Meth junkies don't eat.

Users become more social, sexual pleasure is enhanced and they can
stay awake for days. Of course the down side is the brain damage,
addiction, depression and suicidal tendencies.

Ladysmith, being in the social orbit of Nanaimo, hasn't escaped the
grip of meth addiction, and front-line youth workers are seeing an
alarming increase in teen use.

"Chemical drug use is on the rise. It's available to youth in
Ladysmith just like Nanaimo," said Kim Chadwick, a Ladysmith Resource
Centre youth addiction worker. "We are experiencing the same problems
as any other community."

Chadwick said kids wanting to get clean often face long waiting lists
at treatment centres in Victoria or Vancouver, and will often fall
back into using. "If they don't have access to treatment they can
disappear off the radar," she said. "There is a gap in the service
between referral to treatment. It can take some time to get them in."

Stephanie McCune, a youth counsellor with the Ladysmith Resource
Centre, is faced with the monumental task of gaining the trust of kids
to get them turned towards treatment.

"I try to maintain a consistent, non-judgmental relationship, but you
can't force those kids to quit," McCune said. "Usually they can't stay
at home while using and often become unreachable."

She has seen kids as young as 12 become heavily addicted and staying
in local "gack" houses while binging on a week-long session. Many turn
to petty property crime to support the habit, or will migrate to
Nanaimo where the drug is plentiful.

More often than not, crimes can be related back to the drug trade,
said Ladysmith RCMP Cpl. Rob Graves, but it is impossible to know how
much is driven by crystal meth. He hasn't seen any meth labs get
busted around Ladysmith, but he doesn't dismiss the probability that
they're nearby.

"Like grow-ops, chances are they're out there," Graves said. "But I
can't say meth is the drug of choice yet."

Why kids start using is generally the same as any other substance
abuse: unhealthy home situations, emotional trauma, peer pressure,
self-esteem issues or the bravado of youth. It's such a dangerous drug
because the first high is so intense and satisfying, but the serotonin
levels in the brain become altered. "It's a scary thing because the
second high is never as good, and it becomes a viscous cycle," McCune

Girls can become especially victimized, Chadwick added, and are apt to
make bad choices such as unprotected sex. Some have landed on the
streets of Nanaimo's sex trade to feed the habit, she said.

"The drug boosts self esteem, and gives an overwhelming sense of
clarity," she said. "To vulnerable youth this can have very negative

But both Chadwick and McCune stressed the number of kids using in
Ladysmith is the vast minority. Most teens are informed enough to make
smart choices Chadwick said."Kids need to know they are the norm for
not using these drugs."
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