'Complete social plan' critical in war on crystal meth

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'Complete social plan' critical in war on crystal meth

Efforts by groups like the fledgling Crystal Meth Victoria Society are laudable but amount to just a drop in the bucket of what is needed, says street minister Al Tysick.

"We need a complete social plan and that is an expensive plan," a frustrated Tysick told a three-month update meeting of the meth society's (Greater Victoria) School District 61 task force.

"We have been happy as front-line providers to get crumbs off same the table. I want to mention a great crumb, the sobering centre that we worked so hard to get is a piece of the puzzle.

"Another piece of the puzzle is a possible safe injection site. But we're not talking as a community together about a complete social plan that would solve some of the underlying issues. That's an expensive plan and all levels of government and the community would have to come together for that," Tysick told a roomful of community leaders.

He said a social plan would include a whole range of things from detox and treatment centres to social housing to work for those who need it.

Tysick's outburst came as meth society spokesman Mark McLaughlin explained there are only five detox beds on southern Vancouver Island for addicted youth.

"I can't believe we're talking about pieces of the puzzle. We have dying kids on the street and nowhere to put them. Nowhere to put them!" Tysick said.

Over the past three months the meth society has been working on a three-pillar approach (education, enforcement and treatment) to combat the spread of crystal meth, a highly addictive, cheap, easily produced drug that is becoming commonplace on Victoria streets.

The task force has been making progress. Under education, it has developed an age-appropriate education program for middle school and secondary school students and produced a public service announcement about the meth-watch program.

Regarding enforcement, it has run a court-watch program for three months; surveyed youth in detention centres; set up a meth tip/ information line and a meth-watch program and is working with retailers to tell them about products used in the manufacture of meth.

Under treatment, the society has signed an agreement of understanding with the Vancouver Island Health Authority committing to: working together to building and Island-based treatment strategy for crystal-meth addiction, improving services relating to crystal meth addiction, and consulting on deployment of new resources.

CH Television News reporter and task force facilitator Murray Langdon said little was being done to address the spread of crystal meth when the task force was formed three months ago. Since, it has since been chipping away at the problem and has just launched a second task force in the West Shore.

"With all these little baby steps we keep taking we keep checking something off and something off and something off. Each one alone doesn't look like a whole lot but in combination they are a tremendous amount."

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DRUG FACTS

- Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug made in illegal labs. It has a high potential for abuse and dependence.

- It can be taken orally, snorted, injected or smoked.

- Methamphetamine is often referred to by many names including: meth, speed, chalk, ice, crystal and glass.

- Methamphetamine releases high levels of dopamine in the brain. This stimulates brain cells to enhance mood and body movement. Over time it may cause decreased levels of dopamine which can result in a severe movement disorder with symptoms resembling Parkinson's disease.

- Short-term effects include increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, insomnia, increased talkativeness, reduced appetite, hallucinations and confusion.

Effects from large doses include fever and sweating, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, dry mouth, irritability, tremors, anxiety, paranoia and hypothermia and convulsions which can result in death.

- Long-term effects include fatal kidney and lung disorders, liver damage, possible brain damage, depression, malnutrition, violence and aggression.

- Prolonged use may produce paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive behavior patterns and delusions of parasites or insects on the skin.

-- Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse and Prevention Source B.C.