Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jan 2005
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Coast Reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Valuing Our Youth

Editor's note: This is part one of a three-part series on youth and drugs 
on the Sunshine Coast.

The Sunshine Coast Youth Awareness Committee (SCYAC) was created six years 
ago in response to concerns about the safety and well-being of the youth in 
our community.

Over the past two years there has been much discussion about the increasing 
problem of youth alcohol and drug misuse. Last spring, thanks to funding 
provided to the School District by the former Action Society, the Youth 
Awareness Committee was able to commission researcher Carol Nielsen to 
prepare a locally-developed strategy to combat this misuse.

During the next three weeks, we will share with our community the current 
state of youth alcohol and drug use and proposed strategies to help youth 
avoid misuse.

The research project attempted to answer two main questions: What can our 
community do to prevent youth from misusing alcohol and or drugs (including 
tobacco), and how can we support youth who are misusing?

In order to answer these questions, 171 Sunshine Coast youth and adults 
were asked to help. These youth and key adults were asked to define the 
term misuse, provide an opinion about the extent of misuse issues on the 
Coast, develop a local philosophy to guide the strategy and develop ideas 
and direction for a local prevention strategy.

"We know that youth engage in risky behaviours: they skateboard, they drive 
too fast, they experiment with drugs and alcohol. We are involved in this 
project to help youth reduce the harm they do to themselves by 
participating in some of these risky behaviours," according to committee 
members Gale Woodhouse, Stacia Leech and Heather Gordon.

Our youth community defines misuse as "when we do it every day, to get over 
depression or sadness, when we do too much or hurt ourselves or other 
people." Our adult community defines misuse as "when it effects behaviour 
or the ability for youth to function and make good choices."

Adults and youth involved in the research rated the extent of misuse to be 
about seven out of 10 youth on the Sunshine Coast. The substances most 
misused, according to both youth and adults, are marijuana and alcohol.

"Alcohol and drug use reduces your ability to make good choices," said 
Sunshine Coast RCMP Sgt. Danny Willis. "The need to acquire the alcohol or 
drugs becomes more important than other areas of your life. Slowly, without 
realizing it, the use becomes abuse.

"To feed a habit, you need money. Even if you have financial resources in 
the beginning, they are used up, and another source of income is required.

"Inevitably, bad choices are made to maintain the habit. People commit 
crime or sell themselves in one manner or another.

Wherever there is a serious drug use issue, there is a crime issue. On the 
Sunshine Coast we have both."

Next Week: What are we as a community doing now.

The Sunshine Coast Youth Awareness Committee includes representatives from 
the following organizations: Gibsons/ Elphinstone Community School, Roberts 
Creek Community School, Chatelech/Sechelt Community School, Pender Harbour 
Community Schools, Sunshine Coast Mental Health/Addiction Services, SCRD 
Parks and Recreation, RCMP, SD No. 46, Sechelt Indian Government District, 
Vancouver Coastal Health and Public Health, Ministry of Children and Family 
Development, Al-Anon, Alateen, Sunshine Coast Community Services, United 
Church Outreach, Needle Exchange Program, Town of Gibsons, Foster Parent 
Development Program and Elphinstone PAC.
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