Pubdate: Fri, 08 Feb 2008
Source: Sherwood Park News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Sherwood Park News
Author: Victoria Handysides
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)


What would you do if you found a crack pipe in your daughter's 
backpack hidden beneath a few text books in the compartment designed 
to hold her iPod? Seem like something out of a worst-case scenario 
played out in your mind, or a graphic after-school special? Well, it 
isn't. In fact, it's a reality for a growing number of Sherwood Park 
parents at the end of their ropes.

Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) is a group that's run by families 
affected by drug use and addiction, for families affected by drug use 
and addiction.

They've been growing steady in the community for the past four years 
and are finally getting some provincial scratch to help.

The Wild Rose Foundation recently gave PEP $25,000 to aid the fight 
against addiction.

Organizers said that with that lump sum and a little extra kicked in 
from the Strathcona County, they plan to hire an executive director.

"We want to become more organized in our approach to prevention, 
intervention and treatment -- right now we're just on a volunteer 
basis and are stretched really thin," said co-founder Audrey Holliday.

It's no wonder the hard-working parents at PEP are working their 
fingers to the bone. On an average night, meetings are sitting at 
about 70 participants.

"When we started PEP we opened Pandora's Box," Holliday said. "The 
more people become aware about drug addiction and what causes it, the 
more they'll be willing to talk about it and the more the stigma will 
be reduced."

And people are talking -- a lot. Holliday said that it seems that 
more and more parents are coming forward, desperate to deal with 
their families' struggle. She added that though the methamphetamine 
epidemic is far from over, a new strain of a classic mind and body 
ravaging substance is back and on the streets of Sherwood Park.

"Crack is a big issue here in Sherwood Park, as is cocaine," Holliday 
said. "There's a fair amount of money in Sherwood Park and meth is a 
cheap, cheap drug. Kids will prefer to do cocaine or crack if they 
can afford it because they see it as cleaner than meth -- meth's got 
a dirty name."

Though she feels that PEP worked hard to get the message out about 
the dangers of meth over the past four years, the spread of cocaine 
was beginning to explode under the radar.

"Coke and crack are not that much different, they just didn't get the 
media attention that meth did. Of course pot is rampant, but when it 
comes to hard drugs, coke and crack are easy to get."

If it sounds hard to believe, Holliday said that people better start 
believing it. PEP meetings are narrated by horror stories that 
involve kids that continue to get younger.

"We're seeing them in really frightening places like junior high 
schools and worksites," she said, adding that public awareness is 
desperately needed.

"We're really trying to involve the business sector in fighting 
drugs, because they're suffering on a different level," she said, 
adding that vandalism, theft and recent armed robberies are reason 
enough to raise awareness.

"You can see the violence escalating and the potential for violence 
escalating," she said. "Most of that kind of crime comes down to drug 

Holliday said that the government contribution has been 
well-received, and that PEP will ultimately become stronger as a 
result, keeping their primary purpose in mind.

"We try to make the family unit healthier so they can better cope 
with substance abuse," she said. "We want them to be in a strong and 
healthy place to make good decisions to help people and not enable them."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom