Pubdate: Fri, 07 Oct 2005
Source: Barrie Advance, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Frank Matys
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Parents, educators and society at large must work with police to 
drive home to youth the dangers associated with crystal meth, a 
high-ranking drug enforcement officer has said.

"It is a community issue," said acting OPP Det. Supt. Frank Elbers. 
"The social impacts, the ancillary crimes because of it are more far 
reaching than anything we have seen."

While not wanting to downplay the effects of pot and other illegal 
substances, Elbers said it is crucial that adults preparing to broach 
the issue with youth be frank and honest in distinguishing one drug 
from another.

"You have to describe it realistically: the dangers associated with 
meth use would be much greater than the dangers associated with marijuana."

While crack cocaine continues to enjoy a wider presence in this 
region, Elbers, a member of the OPP Drug Enforcement Unit, said it 
would be foolish to believe area communities are immune from the 
growing reach of crystal meth, a highly-addictive stimulant. "We 
would be ignorant not thinking it has reached Simcoe County," he added.

In fact, the drug's presence has been felt in this region for more 
than a decade, say staff at Simcoe Outreach Services, which provides 
assessments, referrals and outpatient counseling for substance 
abusers and others battling addictions. "(Crystal meth) has been on 
and off for as long as I have been with the agency, and I've been 
with the agency for over 11 years," said Sandy White, clinical supervisor.

Though White has seen nothing to indicate its use is rising, she 
acknowledged that clients who seek treatment for other drugs may be 
indulging in methamphetamines on the side.

"The young people present with other substances and could be 
potentially using crystal meth as a recreational drug," she added.

"That is not to say it is not being used frequently, but it is not 
the presenting substance."

Elbers, who co-chairs a provincial committee on methamphetamines, 
said the drug's popularity spans all income levels and social backgrounds.

"It is classless," he added. "All classes of society, whether it be 
children or adults or teens could be users."

The initial "rush" provided by crystal meth can last a half hour, 
though the high can linger for a dozen hours before the user finally 
collapses from exhaustion.

"The body isn't built for this," he added. "It is terribly dangerous 
for the body."

Users often fall into a state of depression, and can turn violent or 
aggressive unexpectedly. In 2001, prompted by the horrific 
experiences of communities already battling its use, the OPP began 
training officers to investigate and dismantle clandestine meth labs.

"It is the most highly volatile and dangerous situation a first 
responder could ever attend," Elbers said.

"The toxicity levels are way beyond any spectrum anyone should ever 
be living in."

Twenty-six drug officers are now trained to combat meth labs in 
Ontario, though Elbers again stressed that the general public must 
also play a role in preventing the drug's spread.

"This has to be a community effort. At the end of the day, the harm 
to our communities is awful."
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