Pubdate: Fri, 17 Jun 2005
Source: Prince Rupert Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Sterling Newspapers Ltd.
Author: James Vassallo
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


Come graduation, most parents expect some degree of celebration from
their kids. While they may not be happy with it, generally this means
copious amounts of alcohol. However, this year Prince Rupert grads may
have taken things too far when a number of students -- after both the
prom and Casino Night -- held parties with the drug Ecstasy.

"They're having ecstasy parties so they can stay up all night long,"
said a concerned parent, who asked to remain anonymous to protect the
identity of her children. "It's been going on for a few months now
that I know of ... it's so bad I think all the kids are doing it.

"If your kids are drinking, you can pretty much guarantee they're
going to do this too."

Ecstasy is generally 60 per cent stimulant (methamphetamine) and 40
per cent hallucinogen taken orally in a pill form. The psychedelic
effects can last between four and six hours, however it is not unheard
of for those who take the drug to stay up for a day or two without
sleep before they "crash." Some parents in town, unfamiliar with the
drug and its effects, panicked recently when they found they could not
wake their children up after they came down. Those parents are now
taking action.

"All of a sudden since graduation all of these parents are hearing
about this and their kids," said the parent. "There's a whole lot of
us that are fed up with the behaviour. A few of us have gotten
together as a kind of bandwagon and we're talking everyday."

The group of parents are working on identifying who is providing the
drugs to their kids, including if it's their kids who are doing the
providing. They say they want to work with the police to stop this,
including giving names, and are considering a Citizens on Patrol type
network to address the problem.

"I'm not afraid to call Crimestoppers," said the parent. "The
highschools know this is out of control ... I think every darn kid
that's there needs to learn about this."

While ecstasy is not a new drug -- it was originally created in
Germany in 1912, was used by hippies in the 60s and gained popularity
during the mid-80s as part of the Europe Rave (dance parties) scene
before becoming part of the same scene in North America during the 90s
- -- it has found an increased presence in the North and Prince Rupert.
For many it is no longer a Rave drug, but simply a bar drug -- a part
of their weekend trip to the local watering hole.

"You're not going to see many raves in Prince Rupert, but you will see
ecstasy in the nightclubs," said Const. Craig Douglass, a former
Rupertite stationed in Prince George with North District Drug
Awareness Services. "It stimulates the sense so people like the bright
lights and the music. I know from personal accounts that it's being
used at all types of parties in the area."

The dangers of the drug are pretty evident when you consider what's in
it, said Douglass.

"Ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, acetone, Red Devil lye, Coleman fuel,
lithium battery acid ... stuff that you'd never consume willingly," he

Very few samples the RCMP find these days of Ecstasy are pure MDMA,
the original chemical compound that was the drug when it was first
created and used by everyone from clinical psychiatrists to the
Military. Instead Ecstasy has become a "polydrug", a witches' brew of
everything from cocaine, heroin, speed, PCP, Ketamine (an anesthetic
used by veterinarians) and, what Douglass calls the most addictive
drug available on the street, crystal meth. On top of that seven
people, mostly under the age of 25, have died in B.C. over the last
six years from the drug.

"You just don't know what you're getting," he said.

Chaperones had confiscated some ecstasy pills at the prom, however
they were flushed down the toilet. If they were handed over to the
RCMP, police may have been able to determined what local youth were
actually ingesting. In all likelihoods it wasn't anything close to
pure MDMA.

Another trend that has developed, although not necessarily in Rupert,
are "Sextasy" parties where people take Ecstasy and Viagara at the
same time.

"The thing about Ecstasy is it makes you want to have sex but you
aren't usually capable of it," said Douglass. "Some people will take
Viagara so they can, it potentially could cause a serious problem."

The combination of the drugs can cause a condition called priapism an
unpleasant effect whereby the penis remains erect for long periods of
time. It can cause blood clots and seriously damage the organ. The
drug can also cause a great deal of difficulty for those who suffer
from depression, or even cause people to suffer from it. The drug
effects the level of seretonin in the brain, one of the natural
substances that makes people feel "good" about things from sex to sports.

Seretonin gets released and plugs into receptors in the brain,
returning after a short period of time. Ecstasy attacks these
receptors, destroying some of the limited seretonin people have in
their bodies, in order to prolong the good feeling for an abnormal
amount of time.

It can take years for seretonin to be replaced by the human body and
some regular users have been found to have 80 per cent less of the
substance in their body.

"When you lose that you don't get it back ever possibly," said
Douglass. "And when you take the drug again it's never the same as the
first time ... they'll never match that high again."

The drug has been on the B.C. RCMP's radar for around six years, but
only a regular occurrence in the north for the last few, he said.

"We find it in the high schools and the junior highs," said Douglass.
"It's not quite in the elementary schools, but I wouldn't be surprised."

One hurdle local RCMP face is the loss of the Youth Intervention Team
and city cutbacks to staffing. This limits their ability to do a lot
of proactive policing, requiring the need to build coalitions with
parents and local schools to address the problem.

"We are aware of the problem," said Const. Rob Kyle, Prince Rupert
RCMP. "About a week ago we made a fairly significant seizure of
ecstasy in town.

"I think this is probably going to get worse before it gets

Along with the DARE (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) program in
elementary classrooms, the school district has also brought the Prince
Rupert Mental Health and Addictions Team into schools to talk about
ecstasy as well as other drugs. This resource is also available to

"Not only do we support people that are using, but also people that
are substance affected," said Angela Szabo, manager Mental Health and
Addictions. "We can tell (parents) a little bit of what is happening
in the community."

One disturbing trend present in Rupert at this time is young girls
taking the drug as a kind of diet pill, she said. Due to the effects
of the pill -- such as increased energy and reduced appetite -- it
makes an effective, although extremely dangerous, weight loss product.

Addictions staff are able to help people understand exactly what drugs
like ecstasy are, what biological and psychological affects there are
and how to monitor their kids for drug use.

Upon having the issue brought to their attention, school board
trustees have determined a forum must be organized to help parents
better understand the risks of ecstasy. While some trustees considered
making the issue a part of a meeting next fall, both Tina Last and
Russell Wiens demanded action by the board immediately.

"It's everybody's responsibility," said Trustee Last in response to
comments that the recent wave of Ecstasy use was not the sole
responsibility of the school board. "Parents are asking somebody to
show them what their kids are getting into. It sounds a little like
we're trying to pass the buck."

"It's here now. If we're going to do something to educate parents ...
we should be doing it this month," said Trustee Wiens. "(Kids) are not
going to stop partying or using this drug."

RCMP have noted in the past that over the summer months, the community
does see an influx of certain drugs.

Trustee Last, with the help of Terri-Lynne Huddlestone, District
Parent's Advisory Council, have decided to take charge of the issue
without the usual forming of committee's and partner dialogues, to
create an information forum on ecstasy for parents. That forum will be
put together as quickly as possible with details to follow soon.

fact box

A Quick Reference Guide To Ecstasy

What it is: Ecstasy (X, XTC, Eccies, Rolls, Beans, "The Hug Drug"). A
combination of methamphetamine (60 per cent) and Hallucinogen (40 per
cent) usually cut with any street drug.

How it works: Ecstasy interferes with the concentration and action of
serotonin in people's brains. Seretonin is a `messenger substance'
(otherwise called a neurotransmitter) that affects the nervous systems
and is involved in the regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, body
temperature and sexual behaviour. It acts through `receptors' that are
located on the outside walls of cells. Ecstasy acts to increase the
natural level of serotonin. The result is a change of mood, repression
of libido and appetite, mental stimulation and increased body

What it does: Creates a sense of euphoria, talkativeness, enhanced
touch, creates a desire to be close to people, auditory and visual
hallucinations, greater sense of self-esteem and a desire to be
physical active (e.g.. dance). Most users are very passive unless
Ecstasy is mixed with a drug that may provoke violent behaviour.

Potential effects on the drug: Dehydration and sweating, hyperthermia
(heat stroke), Bruxism (clenching of the teeth), excessively dilated
pupils, increased blood pressure and heart rate.

A few ecstasy users have died from brain hemorrhages.

Potential after effects: Fatigue, acne, stomach cramps, headaches,
back pain, confusion, paranoia, anxiety irregular sleeping patterns
and depression. Long term users may experience kidney and liver
problems later in life.

What to look for: (Many of these behaviours may be common for a
teenager, however a sudden manifestation of a number of these
activities over a short time could indicate drug use.) Personality
changes (disrespectful, angry, paranoid, moody), depression, decrease
in physical activity, becomes secretive, lies and refrains from
face-to-face contact with family, steals or "loses" things once
valued, suddenly has a lot of money (dealing drugs) or suddenly has
none (using), no longer cares about appearance or hygiene, loss of
appetite, not sleeping (on the drug) or sleeping lots (coming down),
dramatic weight loss or gain, suddenly hyperactive and then without
energy, drops old friends, changes activities (sports, etc.) that were
once important, poor school performance and loss of concentration.
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