Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2006
Source: Stettler Independent (CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 Stettler Independent
Author: Kevin Waddell, Independent reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


On The Whole, Alcohol And Marijuana Are The Drugs Of Choice For Those 
Stettlerites Who Use

Substance abuse in east central Alberta closely follows provincial 
trends, the area manager of Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission said.

"It doesn't matter where you are, there's a core base population of 
12 to 20 per cent who will abuse drugs or alcohol," said Lance Penny, 
area supervisor of the Stettler AADAC office.

Stettler's office is the regional centre for everything east of Hwy. 
21, and spanning from Big Valley north to Hwy. 53.

The office offers one-on-one counselling services for individuals and 
families dealing with substance abuse, tobbaco use and gambling 
addictions. In addition, counsellors hold group sessions, and offer 
referral services to in-patient facilities in the province.

Because of the office's geographic turf, counsellors also supplement 
in-person sessions with telephone sessions.

"People often think that because we have a better lifestyle than in 
urban centres, that it's safe to raise children out here, and you 
leave all the drug problems behind in the city," Penny said.

"That's not the case. We're a very mobile society, and it's easy to 
just go to the city, pick up what you want, and bring it into our community."

He also said that being rural is often a problem because of 
production, as well.

"You can be on an acreage or in a small town, growing or producing 
what you want, and people aren't going to be as suspicious," he said. 
As far as drugs of choice, marijuana leads the pack nation-wide.

In a recent study released by AADAC, 51.3 per cent of Albertans 
reported that they never tried the drug. 33.2 per cent said they were 
former users, and 15.5 per cent reported they're active users.

The numbers are vastly different for non-cannabis drug use, with 3.5 
per cent of Albertans reporting they used other illicit drugs, 16.1 
per cent reporting they are former users, and 80.3 per cent reporting 
they've never tried other drugs.

"Certainly that's what we see in our area as well," Penny said. 
"Marijuana is as insidious as alcohol."

Alcohol remains the substance of choice for Albertans. The same study 
had 79.5 per cent of Albertans reporting they had drank alcohol in 
the past year, with 6.4 per cent reporting themselves as lifetime abstainers.

Of the drinkers, 19.4 per cent reported themselves as heavy drinkers, 
split almost evenly between heavy frequent and heavy infrequent drinkers.

"Alcohol is probably the easiest substance to abuse, because the 
potential is there. It's legal, and it's available," Penny said.

He said marijuana's popularity could partially stem from a lax 
attitude held over from a time when the drug wasn't as powerful.

"The stuff they're smoking today is far more powerful than when I was 
running around being a hippie," Penny said. "It has gone from one or 
two per cent THC to 22 to 25 per cent THC."

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical in marijuana that induces a high.

The only blip on the drug radar in the Stettler area is crystal 
methamphetamine, Penny said.

"It really started to become a problem near Edson about 10 years 
ago," Penny explained.

The use of the extremely addictive drug, which is known to have 
devastating physical and psychological effects on users, began to 
spread to other communities in Alberta.

The police, AADAC and other substance abuse groups began to focus on 
the drug and its production, and the level of abuse seen in other 
communities never reached Stettler.

"That's one area where we differ from the rest of Alberta," Penny 
said. "It didn't become the huge problem here that it did in other communities."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman