Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jan 2005
Source: Duncan News Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Duncan News Leader
Author: Angie Poss
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


It costs the same as a movie, three mochas, or about 10 games of pool. And 
it lasts longer. For some youth, drug use is becoming the best way to spend 
a Friday night.

Or a Tuesday night. Or a Wednesday afternoon.

According to Statistics Canada, youth are at the highest risk for drug and 
alcohol dependence. A 2002 study showed nine percent of 20- to 24-year-olds 
were dependent on alcohol, compared to a figure of less than one per cent 
for those aged 35 or older.

When it came to drugs, the study found 2.5 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 
were dependent versus less than half of one per cent of people over 35.

Youth are becoming addicted to hard drugs younger and younger, says Bob 
Haubrich, the manager of crisis services and addictions for the central 
island. Youth as young as 12 are habitually using.

As chemical drugs (crystal meth or ecstacy) become cheaper and easier to 
produce than organic drugs (marijuana or mushrooms), youth are turning to 
more addictive, more damaging substances.

"We're kind of working flat out here, doing what we can," said Haubrich, 
taking a deep breath. "But it's never enough. We're not staffed enough."

For teenage girls especially, drug use is often tied up in issues of 
self-esteem. They are doing it for acceptance, to ease their anxiety, to 
feel powerful. Increasingly girls are turning to crystal meth in the search 
for the elusive perfect body, according to Steve Noble, a Cowichan Valley 
man who worked with local youth to produce a play about youth drug use.

"They're taking crystal meth thinking they'll lose weight," says Noble. 
"And they will. They'll lose a ton of weight. They'll look like a skeleton. 
But they'll use it once and they're addicted."

At $10 a hit, the high can last upwards of 12 hours. That's 12 hours 
without sleep or food. The high takes its toll as users come down, leading 
to binge use that leaves a person addicted after just one session.

Crystal meth is often laced with other drugs, like ecstacy, increasing its 

The increase in crystal meth use is showing itself in an increasing number 
of people being admitted to area hospitals for overdoses and drug-induced 
dangerous behaviour, explains Haubrich.

"We know that meth is in the Valley," says RCMP spokesperson Const. 
Jennifer Prunty. "I would hesitate to call it the dominant drug ... but it 
us one of the scariest in terms of what it does to you and the violent 

But, says Prunty, while the drug is gaining in popularity, RCMP don't 
believe it is being produced here yet.

Toward the end of 2004, Cowichan Youth Services began conducting a survey 
of 1,000 youths aged 15 to 30 in the region to try to get a handle on drug 
and alcohol use locally.

So far 97 per cent of respondents say they have used alcohol.

The evolution of CYS has itself been the result of substance abuse problems 
in the Valley. The office opened five years ago as a youth employment office.

"I knew within three months that we would have much bigger issues," says 
Julie Bradley of CYS. "We ended up being a resource centre for all the issues."

The office now also provides counseling and referral services, school 
presentations and works with at-risk youth.

"Any kid with $20 can get something. There's no question. For $10 you can 
get ecstacy anywhere," said Bradley.

One of the new trends is mixing alcohol and marijuana with several other 
drugs at one time.

"They're using six or seven drugs a night," said Bradley.

It's a vicious cycle that leads to more and more drug use.

"'It doesn't do anything for me.' We hear that a lot," said Martin 
Middleton, a youth worker with CYS who has been conducting the drug use 
survey. "Once you are addicted, you get used to it and you have to step it up."

There are no drugs to ease the brutal withdrawal from crystal meth. The 
only way to detox is with counseling and a lot of willpower.

"There's potentially a tidal wave of new cases coming in and we're not 
prepared for it," says Noble.

"Addiction is still a very taboo topic to talk about. To some extent 
parents are still in denial about it. They think it's only 'those' kids, 
the 'bad' kids. Whoever they are. We're hiding behind the silence and 
because of the silence the damage is only going to become worse ... the 
damage is going to be more widespread."

The only way to stop the wave, believes Noble, is to take prevention 
programs to a middle-school level.

"If we're targeting kids in high school we're too late. It's already there."

Bradley agrees, saying prevention should be done in Grade 8 if not earlier.

For their part, the RCMP revamped the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance 
Education) program to deal more with poor self-esteem as a cause of drug 
and alcohol use. The updated program is designed to be delivered to 
students in both Grades 5 and 7.

"The focus is more towards giving kids decision making skills so they can 
make healthy choices in their lives," says Prunty.

However, because of budget constraints the new program will be delivered 
only in selected Grade 5 classes in the Cowichan Valley.

Prevention must also include teaching youth other ways to build their 
self-esteem, says Fred Roland, who works with the youth of Cowichan Tribes. 
One way of doing that is through programs like Roland's newly launched 
Ancestral Trails.

While it is not specifically a diversion program, Ancestral Trails takes 
First Nations youth out into nature, teaching them the outdoors skills and 
cultural skill of their ancestors. A natural byproduct of that, says 
Roland, is improved social skills and self-confidence.

It's a program that was developed to guide youth through a time when they 
are trying to find themselves, said Roland, trying to be someone.

"A lot of them are struggling on various levels ... if we can provide a 
place where it doesn't matter if you are wearing the top of the line hiking 
gear or just something to make you comfortable that is huge. We're just 
providing a place where none of that matters. We're here to just find out 
who you are. Just being."
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