Pubdate: Thu, 07 Apr 2005
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Paula Ogonoski
Bookmark: (Youth)


Fort McMurray Today -- (Because consuming drugs like marijuana and cocaine 
is illegal and federal legislation forbids identifying young offenders, the 
names of the students in this story were changed. Adults are quoted in the 
story by their real names.)

Each of the 10 students interviewed at Father Patrick Mercredi high school 
about illegal drug use among their age group revealed a different place in 
and around the school that drugs were available for purchase and consumption.

They all agreed that the accessibility of illegal drugs is a contributor to 
its attractiveness.

Students said school officials do their best to alleviate the problem of 
teen drug use, "but it's too big," to completely wipe out, said "Betty."

For some youth drugs, especially marijuana, has become a norm for their 

"In a place like this (Fort McMurray), it's hard not to get into drugs 
because you have nothing to do. Also, there are people who can afford it. 
It certainly impacts everyone in some way," Betty said. "You'll just be 
walking down the street and be offered drugs, in the hallways (at school), 
by strangers. They don't stop to think about how old you are."

"Weed (marijuana) isn't a big deal, it's a word we hear every day but it 
leads to something else and you go up the chart" into harder drugs, "Tania" 

The students agreed that drugs are introduced to teens when they attend 
Grade 8, and by Grade 9, "it becomes a regular part of the culture," said 

Even those who would least be expected to take part have experimented, said 
Betty, who is known throughout the school for her extracurricular activities.

She said it's hard keeping up with the false front of perfection for older 
people. Few suspect she experiments with drugs.

"I've done drugs and when a parent or an adult asks me I don't want to be 
judged. They always will say 'I can't believe you did that,' " she said.

Aside from drugs' accessibility, teens cited curiosity about the illicit 
substances and peer pressure as reasons they experiment with them.

"I think (it's) because popular kids do it. What's happening is, the kids 
we're looking up to do it and we do it too. I tried it because everyone 
else did. It's very available, so what's the big deal?" "Caitlin" said.

But not everyone in the group has a desire to try drugs.

"You can't solve a problem by smoking a joint. You still have to face life 
eventually. I never had a mind to do it and I still don't want to try it," 
said "Sara," one of the three students in the group of 10 who has stayed 
away from the drug culture.

Drugs have also festered outside the school grounds. Many students said 
they have a brother, friend or family member who has a serious drug problem.

"My family has a history with drugs and right now one is really badly into 
it. No matter how hard we try we can't get him out of it," Tania said.

Adults leaving a drug awareness presentation at a local high school said 
some parents are out of the loop when it comes to their children's 
extra-curricular activities.

"People are ostriching (keeping their heads in the sand). It's when their 
feathers get plucked off that they see what's happening," said Rob Pagacz, 
a father to a Grade 10 and 11 students.

"People always think it's not happening to them. But you can be a model 
parent yet this problem affects everyone. No one will not be affected in 
some way by drugs," added Adele Weichel, mother of a a Grade 9 student.

Both adults said to try and address the problem, parents need to be more 
aware of their children's lives, including by networking with other 
parents. Open communication with their children helps.

The students agreed that parents talking with them about drugs would be a 
good start, but there are no easy answers to solve the problem.

* This is part two of a three-part series.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom