Pubdate: Wed, 26 Apr 2006
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2006 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Pamela Cowan
Bookmark: (Youth)


Youths are using dangerous drugs at an earlier age, says an 
addictions counsellor with the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region.

Over the past 15 years, the average age of a first-time user of 
illicit drugs dropped from 15 to 12 years consistently across the 
country, said Don Fitzsimmons.

"I've never seen so much cocaine and crack in the city as the last 
couple of years," he said. "It's just everywhere and crystal meth is 
a close chemical cousin to cocaine ... A very small number of kids 
are using that drug. The largest percentage of kids in the 16 to 
24-year age group are abusing alcohol and pot as their primary 
substances of abuse."

Youth generally begin drug use with alcohol and tobacco and then 
progress to pot, ecstasy, cocaine or crack, Fitzsimmons said. He 
wonders if youth have a false sense of security about using crack cocaine.

"Kids have observed that many have tried it and actually recovered 
from it, so they get the idea that it's probably risky to try, but 
somehow it's going to be OK, so there's a little bit more societal 
permission I believe," he said.

While statistics about alcohol, street drugs and solvents usage in 
Saskatchewan are hard to obtain and difficult to quantify, trends 
show kids are starting at an earlier age, said Sgt. Dave Henry, the 
RCMP's Drug Awareness co-ordinator.

Previous generations who smoked reefers may downplay the drug's 
hazards because it didn't interfere with their functioning, but drugs 
are more complex today, Henry said.

"I've never seen a bag of dope with a label on it and so it is buyer 
beware," he said, adding users don't realize carcinogenic chemicals 
and pest icides are used to increase the potency of cannabis.

Henry and Fitzsimmons agree that alcohol is the most damaging to society.

"For all age groups across the board, alcohol is head-and-shoulders 
above all of the other drugs combined in terms of its damage and cost 
to society," Fitzsimmons said.

Alcohol is probably the first drug youths explore because it's 
readily available, he said. "It becomes the drug they form their fun 
with and the relationship with which is also the seed of an addiction."

Henry and Fitzsimmons will be speaking at "Substance Abuse and Its 
Impact on Our Community", a presentation sponsored by the 
Saskatchewan Psychiatric Association. The public presentation will be 
held Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Delta Hotel & Convention Centre.

Henry believes parents must set limits to deter their children from 
substance abuse and be actively involved in their child's life.

"When it comes to parenting, your job is to set the rules and their 
job is to push the rules," he said.

Information about substance and drug abuse can prepare parents to 
deal with these issues.

"There's a lot of resources in the community who are desperately 
trying to help people prevent substance abuse or recover from 
substance abuse so parents aren't alone in the fight," he said.
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