Pubdate: Thu, 15 Nov 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Kristen Lipscombe


School Bringing In Ex-Addict To Talk To Kids About Addiction

Dealing with drug-addicted high school students has been "very
dramatic and traumatic for us all," the principal of Millwood High
School said Wednesday.

Lachie MacIntosh said staff at the Lower Sackville school started
noticing a small group of students abusing serious drugs when the year
kicked off in September. In fact, the school coped with about five
hooked students within the first couple weeks of school.

"There are a small number of students who, at the risk of categorizing
but probably safely saying, are addicted," Mr. Mac-Intosh said, adding
that some are hooked on prescription medicines while others are likely
using the illegal variety.

The worried educator estimates there are roughly 12 to 15 teens who
are suffering from a "severe dependency" - about one per cent of the
700 students.

Mr. MacIntosh, who spoke candidly about the challenge his school
faces, said Valium seems to be one option available to students - but
it's not the only drug at their fingertips.

"The fact is they're being consumed," he said. "Any prescription drug
that will give an effect, and (that) the kids like, is a possible
candidate. The mystery of what they're ingesting is part of the appeal
as well, so there could very well be a variety of other drugs."

And the problem isn't isolated to any grade level, he said. "We've had
some incoming Grade 10s who have been affected and I've seen it in our
senior students as well."

That's why his high school is dealing with the drug problem quickly
and openly by bringing in a former user to talk to students and by
hosting three meetings for concerned parents and the surrounding community.

"We invited an expert in to speak . . . who had a lifestyle of
addiction herself," Mr. MacIntosh said.

"I sort of charged her with the responsibility of trying to figure out
the culture of the school and what drugs are on site and what (is)
being consumed.

"But I excused myself from the meeting - I wanted the atmosphere to be

Millwood High held its first two evening gatherings earlier this
month, the Nov. 6 meeting featuring a speaker from the provincial
addiction program Choices and this past Tuesday's session focused on
counselling services and parenting.

"(It's) the village raising the child," Mr. MacIntosh said of his
school's decision to take a stand. "Most parents think that if their
child is not consuming drugs then they don't have to attend a meeting
like this. I'd beg to differ that we are a microcosm of society."

The third meeting is scheduled for Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. and will
emphasize "the physiological effects of drugs," Mr. MacIntosh said.
"I've got medical experts to come to explain to parents what the body
goes through when you're consuming this."

Mr. MacIntosh, who moved from Sir Robert Borden Junior High in Cole
Harbour to Millwood High in August, said he has never seen such
obvious drug use within school walls.

"They are debilitated to the point where they certainly can't learn
anything; their very health is at risk," Mr. MacIntosh said. "When
they consume drugs, that means others will be visiting the school to
sell drugs. . . . It brings us all to a certain level of risk."

Doug Hadley, spokesman for the Halifax regional school board, said the
problem at Millwood probably isn't that different from what's
occurring in many other high schools in the municipality. "In many
ways our schools are reflections of what's taking place in the broader
community," he said Wednesday.

Mr. MacIntosh said he chose to apply for his position at Millwood
because of its stellar reputation.

"The celebration of the successes of this school is not going to be
clouded by addressing an issue that is a part of every school culture.
Every school . . . deals with drug issues. No one is exempt."
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