Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2006
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Glenn Kauth, Today staff
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Crystal meth isn't the drug of choice in Fort McMurray,  but a new
report aiming to deal with meth addiction in  the province may lead to
more drug-treatment services  in the region.

The report issued Tuesday by the province's task force  on meth is
calling for 100 more detox beds in Alberta  to provide short-term
support for addicts to get off  drugs. The report singles out Fort
McMurray for more  services, something that comes as welcome news to
Ann  Hurley, the executive director of Pastew Place, the  local detox
centre. "I think the recommendations of the  task force were right on
the money," she said.

Currently, Pastew Place has 16 beds available but has  funding for
only 10 of them. "We turn people away all  the time," Hurley said,
noting the centre is often at  full occupancy.

If the province follows through on the recommendations,  the centre
would likely be able to open those six other  beds, Hurley said. When
that will happen is unclear,  though, since Alberta's health minister
has been  emphasizing the costs of new beds. While each bed costs
roughly $100,000, Iris Evans said the province has  little choice but
to take action. "What's the  alternative if you want to get rid of
crystal meth?"  she said. "I think we've got a real responsibility to
act on (the report)."

While the report calls for aggressive steps to deal  with crystal
meth, locally the drug is a minor problem  compared to cocaine. "Crack
is still the big drug of  concern here," said Hurley, noting meth is
generally  considered the "poor man's crack." In Fort McMurray,  where
a lot of people have money, a lot of users can  afford to buy cocaine.
In fact, Susan Bottern, the  federal prosecutor who handles drug
offences at the  Fort McMurray courthouse, strained to think of a meth
  case she's handled recently.

Still, while meth isn't the drug of choice here, the  problem has been
growing, Hurley said. Coralee Rahn,  the area supervisor with the
local Alberta Alcohol and  Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC) office, said
recent  statistics showed five per cent of its clients said  they had
used meth in the last year.

One potentially controversial recommendation was a call  for people
charged with crimes involving meth "or any  other dangerous drug" to
be automatically denied bail  and to automatically get jail time if
convicted.  "That's always a knee-jerk reaction," Bottern said when
told of the recommendation. "Everybody has a right to  apply for
bail," she added.

While the report has gotten a warm reception from those  involved in
drug-treatment programs, not everyone  thinks it will make much of a
difference. Louis  Pagliaro, a professor and expert on substance abuse
at  the University of Alberta, heaped scorn on it, calling  it a
"Mickey Mouse report." The recommendation for more  treatment beds is
meaningless, he said, because the  approach to addictions treatment in
Alberta is  ineffective, he said. "Essentially, we have zero
treatment beds now in the province because the people  who are
treating are generally incompetent."

AADAC, he argued, doesn't hire the specialized  psychiatrists and
psychologists needed to treat the  most serious drug cases, which
often involve  "multi-varied" mental illnesses like anxiety disorders
and depression.

When asked how often he sees people fail at drug  treatment through
AADAC's programs, he said he sees it  happen every day.
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