Ponoka residents were updated on the ever-changing world of drugs in a session held by Alberta Health Services addiction services at the Ponoka Youth Centre.
Ivy Daigle, who works with addiction services, covered several subtopics in her presentation, from standard drug classifications, to other addictions such as alcohol and gambling, to the newest trends of youth substance abuse.
More than a year ago Daigle was based in Ponoka and is aware of the trends of the community’s demographics.
“There is definitely trends with drugs going around central Alberta right now,” she said.
When Daigle did work in Ponoka, among adult population that visited her in the addictions clinic the most abused substance was painkillers.
“The slippery slope often with painkillers is it’s prescribed by doctors,” said Daigle. However the body can become dependent on the medication and an emotional bond can form.
“If you take that away that causes a whole lot of pain.” Daigle said within the last year OxyContin was changed to OxyNEO. It’s still the same drug but affects the body differently.
With OxyContin off the street Daigle says there’s been an increase in heroin addictions. Oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin is an opioid, and is closely related to heroin.
According to a Troy Media column, by Irfan Dhalla and David Juurlink, expert advisors with EvidenceNetwirk.ca, OxyContin was designed so the active ingredient was released into the body in stages over 12 hours. However, the release system was easy to beat. For a fast high the tablets only needed to be chewed or crushed.
OxyNEO can’t be broken down or crushed as Oxy-Contin could, but now people are adding substances such as bleach to break it down to an injectable form.
Daigle says even with the bleach the drug still resists entering the blood stream. However, it’s been achieved, although it’s now very difficult.
Although they aren’t known to be in Ponoka, Daigle also talked about two new trends that have become highly popular with youths. The first being punchbowl parties.
Punchbowl parties occur when group of youths come together with different medications and pills they’ve taken from their own houses. All the pills are put together in a bowl and they’ll take turns swallowing a handful, to see what the effects are.
The second trend is anal bongs and alcohol-soaked tampons. “The biggest thing I’d have to say about this is it’s extremely dangerous,” said Daigle.
With these methods of consumption the alcohol bypasses the liver and can directly enter the bloodstream.
Daigle started her presentation by having the audience read several controversial statements about drugs and alcohol. From this it was learned there is no legislation about pregnant mothers and substance abuse. They can’t be incarcerated or made to stay in a hospital.
Over the course of the presentation Daigle covered drug classifications and the effects of certain drugs. The classes are stimulants, depressants, cannabis and hallucinogens.
Crack cocaine is the most popular hard drug in Red Deer, and according to Daigle 60 to 80 per cent of cocaine coming into Canada is laced with levamisole; a veterinary de-wormer. “It compromises our immune system,” she said.
“The biggest thing that cocaine or any stimulant … it changes the way a person thinks and feels,” Daigle added.
And nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
“Quitting smoking is one of the hardest addictions.” Daigle said smoking and drinking coffee often go together and in a smoker the effects of caffeine are felt 250 per cent more.
When a coffee drinker tries to quite smoking the negative side effects are always nicotine withdrawal, sometimes they’re caused by the feeling of an overabundance of caffeine.
In a cigarette there are 7,000 dangerous chemicals, 69 can cause cancer, said Daigle.
Marijuana is in a classification of its own, cannabis, because it has effects of both stimulants and depressants.
Daigle said THC is the part of the drug that makes a person high, and in the last 40 years the potency of the drug has increased from two to five per cent to approximately 20 per cent.
According to Daigle, the part of the plant that “chills” a person is being taken away because users want to achieve a more potent high. Hormones and other additives are also being used to create a more potent high.
“Often we see, with addicts, they’re always chasing their first high,” said Daigle. Distributors will often lace their drugs to change them. It keeps the addicts coming back, chasing that first high.
Bath salts is the hallucinogen Daigle talked most about. Bath salts aren’t actually the bath salts added to water, they look similar and were being sold as the real thing in stores for those who knew about the ruse and wanted to obtain the drug.
Daigle said bath salts aren’t that popular in Alberta but are in Nova Scotia. “Nova Scotia is the red flag for Canada right now.”
Daigle also talked briefly about the recovery cycle. “Nine times out of 10 if a person is going to be successful they have to want it.”
In addiction services, councillors will go through the major life areas of an addict and show them they have a problem. Daigle says helping an addict recover is about staying at their level and pace of recovery.
With youths it about building a safe, open relationship where they feel they can speak and be heard.
However, parents have a tendency to not want their children to abuse drugs or alcohol and there are programs where parents can take their children when staying at their pace isn’t optimal.
The Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act has a safe house in Red Deer, and one in Edmonton, where youths can be sent to a 10-day recovery program. The house also has a voluntary detox program for up to 10 days.