Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jan 2006
Source: Hope Standard (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Hope Standard
Author: Dan Reist
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Editor, The Standard;

Meth labs in basements. Bony boys scratching scabs on their skin. 
Headlines claiming "One hit and hooked for life." Megalomania. 
Hallucinations. Psychosis.

With the hurricane-like fury of methamphetamine fear flying around in 
the media, you have to wonder who's actually having the "psychotic 
episode" -- the drug users or the rest of us. The parents who fill up 
on distorted news bites about a drug "epidemic" while sipping their 
morning coffee. The public figures who focus on meth and its supposed 
link to crime. The people who focus on the grubby kid behind powder 
and pipe, instead of on the things that lead him down the drug path 
in the first place.

Clearly, logic and reason -- not to mention facts -- have flown out 
the window when it comes to meth, making it hard for people to see 
the big picture. And the same holds true for other psychoactive 
substances, from alcohol to heroin to crack cocaine.

What can we do to regain our composure long enough to identify the 
root issues and come up with real solutions to the real problems? 
Let's try focusing on facts.

Ironic as it seems, a street kid's decision to take meth is based on 
a kind of logic, or "meth math." You have a need or desire to get 
high, a shortage of cash, and a lack of wheels to seek out 
substances. You choose meth because it's cheap, easy to get, and 
lasts around 12 hours.

Meth use patterns -- like most other substance use patterns -- are 
also more mathematical than many people make out. Drug or alcohol use 
is not the same as alcohol or drug dependence. There are different 
types and levels of use. For some it's simple experimentation. For 
others, alcohol or drug use leads to trouble at school, work, or with 
the law. And for a small number of people, substance use becomes a 
compulsive behaviour required for daily living.

Yet people still cling to the belief that use is addiction, despite 
the fact that the equation makes sense in only a handful of cases. 
The majority of people who try meth, like those who try alcohol, do 
not go on to chronic or compulsive use.

The question isn't "How do we stop the meth epidemic?" The real 
questions are: What factors contribute to substance experimentation? 
Which ones make a teenager want to escape his reality? What can we do 
to help ensure experimentation and risk taking do not lead to harm 
and dependence?

For young people, drug and alcohol experimentation is linked to a 
natural desire to rebel and take risks as well as a desire to fit in 
to a peer group. The need to escape, however, may be rooted in 
isolation and loneliness, which result from marginalization and a 
lack of meaningful relationships with parents and peers.

The risk factors that contribute to a kid's decision to drink or take 
drugs include things like parental modeling of substance use, weak 
academic performance, low-self esteem, or a sensation-seeking personality.

We have to take the focus off the substances and work on helping 
young people build and maintain meaningful bonds in their 
communities. It means ensuring teens grow up with enough protective 
factors -- confidence and close relationships -- to not find the 
oblivion of psychoactive substances particularly attractive.

Logic dictates that we look long and hard at how we're doing as 
parents and adult role models, rather than rant on ad nauseum about 
the evils of one substance or another.

What is more harmful than the substances themselves are over-the-top 
messages that poison parents into thinking there is no hope for their 
sons and daughters if they so much as look at meth. The fact is 
there's always hope if we support each other.

Dan Reist

Communications Director

Centre for Addictions Research of BC

University of Victoria 
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