Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jan 2018
Source: Observer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018, Sarnia Observer
Author: Carl Hnatyshyn
Page: A1


'Crystal meth … in this city is a much worse problem than

The opioid epidemic that has overtaken Ontario has left its mark on
Lambton County, but a more insidious problem - the widespread use of
crystal methamphetamine -will have an equal, if not greater effect on
crime in the future, according to the head of Sarnia Police Service's
Vice Unit.

Det. Sgt. John Pearce spoke about the prevalence of opioids and
methamphetamine in Sarnia, the inherent dangers of these drugs, and
the legalization of marijuana during a recent presentation at the
Central Forum Speaker Series.

Pearce heads the police service's vice unit. After seeing the effects
of rampant addiction first-hand, the entire community should be
concerned about the popularity of opioids and pervasiveness of crystal
meth, he said.

"Nobody is immune to this travesty. With the opioids, the pills - we
started having the influx in oxycodone and percocet prescriptions back
in the 90s. From there it evolved into the late 90s, early 2000s when
it evolved into other problems. The fentanyl issue became a live issue
in 2008, 2009 and carried on through until we introduced the patch for
patch program."

Pearce said crystal meth has been a problem for 20 years in

"Before that it wasn't crystal meth, it was liquid meth that was
classified as an old biker meth, that was only injected. But crystal
meth gives you another mechanism of opportunity and it's a stronger
drug and far more addictive than the old meth."

He said fentanyl was originally designed to help terminal cancer
patients and people with chronic pain. It's highly addictive - 100
times stronger than morphine and 20 to 50 times more powerful than
heroin. The opioid triggers a receptor in the brain that makes the
individual crave nothing else. Addicts risk their life every single
time they use it, Pearce said.

"It's like a game of Russian Roulette," he said. "They're playing with
life and death every single time they get high. But because it's so
addictive, they really don't care... typically someone who overdoses
will be dead within two to five minutes because during an opioid
overdose, the brain shuts down the central nervous system, stops the
heart and shuts down breathing."

Pearce blames the pharmaceutical industry and over-prescribing doctors
for the opioid crisis.

Lambton County, he said, has one of the highest rates of opioid
prescriptions in Ontario - 16.5 per cent of residents have had opioids
prescribed to them by their doctor.

"The lack of education from pharmaceutical companies about the proper
use of opioids and the fact doctors were over-prescribing them, it was
a complete recipe for disaster," he said. "It's just alarming there
are so many opioids prescribed with little accountability."

He said fentanyl became abused after it was over-prescribed by doctors
and diverted from people legitimately taking the drug.

"People would be prescribed a pack of these two-inch by two-inch
patches, and often times they wouldn't use them all. There was no
oversight that these patches were being disposed of properly or
returned, so many of them ended up on the street after being stolen or
simply sold."

In an effort to halt the growing number of overdoses and deaths from
fentanyl, Sarnia Police Services in 2014 teamed with Lambton Public
Health, pharmacists and local health-care providers to introduce a
fentanyl patch return program. It requires those who were prescribed
patches to return one patch before receiving another.

Pearce said the program has limited the quantity of fentanyl patches
available for sale on the street.

"After the introduction of the patch-for-patch service, which was
designed to stop diversion, availability of fentanyl dropped
considerably," he said. "Patch-for-patch made patients accountable, it
made doctors accountable and it made pharmacists accountable to
prescribe the drugs that patients actually needed."

Yet the program's success has had unintended consequences. The low
supply has driven up the street price of fentanyl patches, now valued
at approximately $800 apiece, Pearce said.

"That means drug users need to get $800 to get their fix. And the
money that feeds their habit comes from property crimes,
breaking-and-entering into homes, into cars," he said. "It's a
systematic problem and you can see how it snowballs."

As a result, addicts and dealers are becoming bolder in their attempts
to procure fentanyl, Pearce said, noting the rash of pharmacy
robberies in Lambton County.

As well, new and even more dangerous forms of fentanyl have also
appeared on Sarnia streets, including fentanyl powder and carfentanil,
a tranquilizer created in the 1950s to tranquilize elephants.

"This drug will be killing people very soon," Pearce said. "These are
raw forums of opium that are highly volatile and even a tiny dose may
be enough to kill you."

Yet in spite of the dangers posed to Sarnia by the influx and
overprescription of opioids, crystal meth has been a persistent and
problematic issue for police for decades, Pearce said.

"Honestly, crystal meth per capita in this city is a much worse
problem than opioids," he said. "It's still here after 20 years
because it's cheap - a gram of crystal meth costs approximately $80 to
$120 - but it's just as dangerous.

"We have an opioid problem, but in my opinion this problem is far more
serious, but you just don't hear about it as much. This drug kills you
slowly but surely. It destroys your body from the inside out and it's
also highly addictive."

The relatively cheap price and easy availability means crystal meth
will be a problem that police will have to deal with long in the
future, Pearce said.

"With both opioids and crystal meth, you try education, enforcement
and regulating the drug at its source, just like the patch-for-patch
initiative... but with crystal meth, there's no end in sight with that
drug in Sarnia," he said. "It's readily available, it's a very
fruitful drug to manufacture and it's affordable.

"And make no mistake, crime and drugs are directly correlated. One
hundred per cent. Those people out there doing those property crimes,
they're doing it for money, for cold hard cash and that money is going
directly to satisfy their drug addictions."

Regarding marijuana, Pearce said he's against its use and wider

He pointed to Colorado where marijuana is legal but where black market
marijuana has remained a problem for police. As well, there are issues
with impaired driving.

"Personally, I'm against it," he said. "There are so many problems
with oversight... and it's going to become a gateway to more use and
more abuse."
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