With the upcoming reduction of the provincial legal alcohol limit to drive to .05, penalties at .08 are becoming more harsh
By Ben Proulx News Staff
Posted 15 hours ago
Alberta’s impaired driving legislation was the talk of the province not too long ago when the legal limit was reduced from .08 to .05., which will take effect on Sept. 1. Now more changes are coming down the pipe.
On July 1, new penalties are being introduced throughout the province for criminally impaired drivers with a graduated licence, with the toughest consequences being the first to come into effect.
“People continue to drive when they are over .08,” said Ric McIver, minister of Alberta Transportation. “We need a more effective way to change that behaviour. These penalties are about making sure that all of us feel more secure when we go out on Alberta’s roadways.”
A driver with a blood alcohol concentration above .08 will be charged under the Criminal Code, as was already the case. However, beginning July 1, the driver will also receive an immediate licence suspension, which will remain in place until the criminal charge is resolved.
The driver’s vehicle will also be seized. Should the accused be convicted, the driver would be required to use an ignition interlock device.
“The tougher penalties are all about helping more Albertans get home safe,” said Jonathan Denis, minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
“The penalties, combined with the continued great work of our enforcement partners across the province, will reduce the needless deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers.”
Those with a graduated licence will also face stronger penalties if they consume any alcohol before driving, including an immediate 30-day licence suspension and a seven-day vehicle seizure.
All penalty changes will be phased in throughout the coming months.
A public education and awareness campaign has begun and will run throughout the summer, as well.
“We promised Albertans we would take the time to provide an education campaign before enacting the increased penalties,” McIver said. “While the limits haven’t changed, the penalties have. Impaired driving is an important safety discussion in Alberta and we want to ensure that people have the facts.”
Between 2006 and 2010, a total of 569 people were killed and another 8,530 injured in collisions throughout the province involving impaired drivers.
Read it on Global News: Global News | Feds hike danger rating on ecstasy while health officers urge drug policy reform
VANCOUVER - Glowsticks, fuzzy pants and DJ Johnny Fiasco were the recipe for a Calgary rave back in the late-’90s when it was Kevin’s job to supply the key ingredient: white powder-packed capsules that stoked touchy-feely-dance vibes in partiers until dawn.
But after a Canada-wide RCMP bust cleared out stockpiles of ecstasy one August weekend in 1997, the 19-year-old dealer lost his usual source.
So he scooped up 200 pills from some guy in the back of a car, having no clue they were the hallucinogen PCP cut with horse tranquilizer.
“We ended up with a party full of sick kids,” said the 34-year-old, who now lives in Vancouver and whose name has been changed. “We were pulling 15-year-old girls out of the bathroom who were puking their guts out, had no idea who they were, where they were, what they were doing.”
Similar misadventure has repeated countless times in the ensuing years, the latest, a rash of 16 deaths across Western Canada in nine months from an ecstasy batch laced with PMMA, a chemical not previously seen here.
Several top public health officials are now proposing a rethinking of current illegal-drug policies they assert spurs on a global problem involving ecstasy, one that even the White House says is made in Canada, specifically B.C.
But the suggestion for dialogue about a careful, science-based crafting of new health-oriented regulations comes at the same time the federal government has taken the polar opposite course with its omnibus crime bill.
In mid-March, the class of drugs that includes the substance MDMA — considered the pure and original form of ecstasy — was bumped up to a Schedule I drug under Bill C-10, giving it heightened status alongside heroin and cocaine.
The boost has the health officers and other advocates of change warning the tough-on-crime approach will not curb street ecstasy’s use or its associated dangers, but instead will further play into the hands of organized crime
British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall and colleagues argue the proliferation of dirty street ecstasy and ecstasy overdoses are a direct consequence of criminalization and prohibition.
They want a public conversation around combating its scourge, similar to the ongoing pot debate.
“We need to involve multiple viewpoints,” Kendall told The Canadian Press this week. “And then we need, in an ideal world, to come up with a regulatory regime which would minimize many of the harmful impacts which I see in the current regulatory regime.”
Police say street ecstasy is killing an average of 20 British Columbians each year.
Kendall said the drug’s risks arise when users have no idea what dose they’re taking, don’t understand MDMA’s known health effects and have no clue of whether the pills are actually MDMA or some other brew of toxic chemicals.
“This is a very emotive, controversial topic for a lot of people,” he said.
“Do I see a consensus coming out of it in the short-run? No… But I still think that it would be a conversation that’s worth having from an evidence-based perspective.”
One “hypothetical” way users could obtain ecstasy, he said, would be through licenced, government-regulated stores, somewhat similar to present-day liquor sales. He said that under such a potential scheme, the drug would still be illegal to minors, and consumers would perhaps be permitted to only buy a certain amount each week or month. Promotional advertising would not occur.
He likened the scenario to the way booze was sold to him in Toronto in 1972.
“When I wanted to buy liquor, I went into a government-run store, there was a list of products on the wall. I went to a man who was behind the counter, he wore a brown overall,” Kendall said in an earlier interview. “I wrote what I wanted on a piece of paper. He came back with a brown paper bag, and I left with my product.”
Other possibilities for how sales might be structured include behind the counter, like the sales of nicorette gum, or by prescription — although Kendall said that option wasn’t likely to fly with doctors because it wouldn’t be for medicinal use.
Kendall is not advocating one particular solution, but believes society would benefit from a revised psychoactive drug-control system, he said.
“If society decided with its wisdom that it was going to address substances based on their inherent harms, you might well see both alcohol and a drug like ecstasy manufactured under strict controls and sold under strict controls,” he said.
“I don’t think the issue is a technical one. The issue is probably one of the political. How would you get society to look at it like that?”
Kendall has co-authored an open paper urging an evidence-based re-evaluation of federal illegal-drug policies with the provincial health officers of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. He also joined scores of B.C.’s physicians in signing a discussion paper in late 2011 that recommends all levels of government “review, evaluate and update their psychoactive substances related laws.”
He and the host of doctors argue that implementing public health-oriented regulations would decrease usage rates, as has occurred in Portugal and the Netherlands. They say that just like ending the alcohol prohibition took booze out of the Mafia’s hands, it would gut the gangs.
That would vastly reduce sales to minors, they contend, and prevent deaths because even if teens did use, they would more likely be getting a cleaner product.
“It means getting away from ideologically-based approaches,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical health officer, in a recent interview.
“I’m challenging the government to say we have to do things differently, because our current approach is clearly not working.”
Since last July, 10 people in Alberta, five in B.C. and one in Saskatchewan have died from PMMA-adulterated ecstasy, and a slew of others have suffered non-fatal overdoses.
Arrests of two alleged small-time traffickers were made in February, though as recently as early May, RCMP in Penticton, B.C. were warning the toxic batch has surfaced there.
RCMP have targeted the domestic ecstasy inventory by raiding synthetic production houses and by cracking down on the supply channels of the chemicals that go into it. Investigators say those strategies have made some dents.
The police line is firm: no amount of ecstasy is safe.
The federal Conservatives’ rescheduling of amphetamines such as MDMA generally means dealers now face one-year mandatory minimum sentences, producers face two years and harsher punishment will be meted out in instances of possession for trafficking or exporting.
An interview request and list of questions for federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson garnered a brief statement.
“These drugs are harmful to users and society and contribute significantly to violent crime,” Julie Di Mambro, the minister’s spokeswoman, said in a May email. “Our government has no interest in seeing any of these drugs legalized or made more easily available to youth.”
But advocates say it’s already in teens’ hands, and the Tories’ move will keep it that way.
Unlike a decade ago, pills on the street are much cheaper, Smartie-like tablets of pressed powder stamped with decals like the Olympic rings.
The same province stirring the pot on drug policy reform also happens to be North America’s ecstasy kitchen.
B.C. has been fingered by the United Nations, the White House, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the RCMP as a global manufacturing hub, where mainly Chinese gangs cook up the substance for wholesale distribution across international borders.
The gangs source the precursor chemicals — like MDP2P which comes from the sassafras plant — from connections in China, smuggling it through Vancouver ports, according to an 80-page report in January from U.S. President Barack Obama’s drug czar. Vietnamese, Indian, Eastern European and outlaw motorcycle gangs are often traffickers.
“Marijuana and ecstasy remain the most significant Canadian drug threats to the United States,” the Office of National Drug Control Policy said in the report.
It says that ecstasy tablets are no longer just MDMA, but rather a “cocktail of chemicals,” as Canadian organized crime groups “demonstrate a willingness to utilize whichever chemicals are readily available to them.”
Pills that mimic MDMA, resembling candy or children’s vitamins and seized around U.S. schools, were traced back to Canadian sources, states the report.
The Blaine, Wash., port of entry, southwest of Vancouver, has led the country in ecstasy border seizures for the past five years, said Dave Rodriguez, director of the Seattle-based Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
He said it’s only within the past four years or so that Canada’s organized crime groups began pumping out the drug in massive quantities, bypassing a former supply route through the Netherlands.
“They set up labs in British Columbia, they got in the tools and the dies and the formula and the expertise, so that they didn’t have to export any longer, they just made it there,” he said.
Four million ecstasy tablets were seized at the Canada-U.S. border in 2010, up from two million in 2006, said D.E.A special agent Jeffrey Scott in Washington, D.C.
He doesn’t believe its regulation will reduce gang activity.
“If you take one substance away from them it’s not likely that they’re suddenly going to go run MacDonald’s or go open a retail store,” he said. “They’re just going to shift to another illicit substance.”
The border seizure number has dropped again in recent years, although a report from Rodriguez’ agency states there is “no evidence” that MDMA production in B.C. has decreased. Ecstasy that does make its way down the west coast mostly ends up in southern California, he said, where the pills and B.C. marijuana are traded for Mexican cocaine that’s then trucked back up north.
Those intimately familiar with the drug, dubbed “Dr. Death” in some circles, say they wouldn’t touch the stuff today.
“For me, MDMA is white. It’s not purple, it’s not pink, it’s not blue. It’s fluffy, it smells like delicious licorice,” said Kevin, who began capping the powder on his dining room table himself after the party poisoning incident, but has long since stopped.
“But you don’t find that anymore. It’s just a bunch of crap that some dude in his basement, who owns a print shop, is scraping into pills — pressing them and then selling them for 50 cents a piece.”
He believes crushing the drug’s illicit aura would benefit society.
“You can ask any drug dealer,” he said. “They will tell you that if they have a good product — and a bad product that’s cheaper — 85 to 90 per cent of their clients, they’re going to spend the extra money for the product that’s going to be clean.”
Read it on Global News: Global News | Feds hike danger rating on ecstasy while health officers urge drug policy reform
June 22, 2012 - 4:13am By MICHAEL GORMAN Truro Bureau
INDIAN BROOK — At-risk aboriginal youngsters, as well as adults and families struggling with addictions and behavioural problems, may soon have a new place to heal.
The First Nations Centre of Balance and Resilience Association, an initiative spearheaded by Indian Brook resident Violet Paul, wants to build an aboriginal healing centre in Shubenacadie.
The board of directors include former National Assembly chief Phil Fontaine, Doug Reti, a former RCMP superintendent and director general of national aboriginal policing services, Chief Jerry Sack of Shubenacadie First Nation, and Kathleen Mahoney, a University of Calgary law professor and the chief negotiator for the Assembly of First Nations during the historic Indian residential schools settlement.
Paul said the idea starts with the concept of finding a way to give more help to residential school survivors and those experiencing the effects as second- or third-generation survivors.
There is a need for a facility in Atlantic Canada that is rooted in First Nation and aboriginal teachings and culture, she said, but the aim of the non-profit association is to help with as many challenges as possible.
“I don’t want to just deal with alcohol and drugs because our communities require more than that to move forward.”
The association has already met with the province and Paul hopes to meet with other governments in Atlantic Canada.
A piece of land has been identified, and although business and financial plans are still being finalized, Paul said the initial plan would call for 24 beds.
The first phase will focus on Aboriginal Peoples in Atlantic Canada, then across the country and eventually be open to anyone.
The centre would use an aboriginal approach to healing through a therapeutic, holistic model based on traditional teachings, said Paul.
“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We’re going to do the research on what’s out there and we’re going to add to it. We’re going to get some elders in there and some traditional healers to help us.”
Fontaine said his interest in the association stems from his work on the residential schools settlement negotiations and apology.
“It became obvious in the discussions that we had with various interest groups in different parts of the country that people were looking for a place where they could go and reflect, discuss and concentrate their efforts on finding some balance in their lives.”
This need for balance extends beyond just First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples, said Fontaine.
Security guards, medical staff and paramedics have to be a tight team to meet the challenge they face at St. Paul’s. Our week in the emergency department concludes.
The drunk middle-aged man has been lying quietly on a gurney just inside the entrance to St. Paul’s emergency department. Brought in by paramedics, he appears to be asleep, his wrists shackled to the gurney’s rails. But after he’s wheeled into a Plexiglas-fronted room for treatment and unshackled, he comes unglued. Screaming profanities, he pounds his fists on the Plexiglas, spattering it with saliva as he directs abuse toward nearby nurses and doctors.
It’s Code White: time for hospital security to move. Seconds later, the man is returned to his gurney by three burly security guards and reshackled.
Unlike security guards who patrol buildings and shops, the emergency department’s protectors work closely with people. And because some of these people are both medically vulnerable and potentially violent, the guards must operate in close co-ordination with doctors and nurses.
“Here, it’s an integrated approach,” says Paladin Security director Chad Kalyk. “It’s not just a security function. You’re part of a patient-support team.”
Emergency department operations director David Brown calls the Paladin guards “a hugely valuable resource.”
“Any emergency [department] is really like a powder keg waiting to go off,” Brown says. “It’s so unpredictable. We strip people out of their clothes and we put them in a bed: we dehumanize people, and you have the potential for people to fight back.”
Add the mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse rampant in the Downtown East-side and “you’ve got more potential for violence,” Brown says.
But because the guards are so busy, medical staff may have to wait for an hour or more when they need security to escort them while attending to a volatile patient, says Dr. Anna Nazif, medical director of emergency psychiatry at St. Paul’s.
“All of the staff here say if we had more security guards our job would be a lot easier and safer,” Nazif says.
Although Paladin provides a spectrum of security services to customers, the guards who work at St. Paul’s emergency enjoy the challenge of working in a difficult environment, Kalyk says.
“They want to be down here,” Kalyk says. “They like it down here.”
Also part of the patient-support team are the paramedics who bring patients to St. Paul’s’ doors by ambulance.
“We talk to the triage nurse. We tell them what the patient’s chief complaint is and the surroundings we might have found them in and what procedures we might have taken,” says Elaine Campbell, a B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic for 17 years. If a patient is severely ill or grievously injured, the paramedics will call ahead to the emergency department so doctors and nurses can prepare.
“They’re able to set things up at their end and have their whole medical staff paged out and told to respond to the trauma room,” Campbell says.
Such a scenario would have occurred after paramedic Liz Tkatchenko and her partner responded to an overdose, but the incident occurred so close to St. Paul’s that there was no time to call ahead.
“The triage nurses had definitely been taken by a bit of a surprise when we rolled in with an unconscious male on our stretcher whose airway needed close monitoring,” Tkatchenko says. “After a brief moment of confusion, and a condensed report through the door-way, everything started to move at a quick pace. A doctor came out into the hallway to get a story from [us] so that he could generate the initial orders. As soon as the patient was taken to the trauma bay, everyone was ready to go.
“We had also warned the triage that there is another patient coming in from the same location, who, unlike the cur-rent one, was very agitated and combative. The bed was prepared, more nurses paged and security put on standby. This made the second handover even smoother. Even when the environment in the department becomes very demanding, St. Paul’s ER staff can really pull it together.”
Paramedics often accompany doctors and nurses who are evaluating patients who have arrived by ambulance, to pro-vide information about the patient’s problems and treatments administered before getting to hospital. With serious cases in one of the department’s two trauma bays, “we wait till the whole team is there and we tell our story,” Campbell says.
As first-responders, paramedics witness horrendous suffering and gruesome injuries.
“We all have a hundred horror stories to tell that we’ve been part of,” Campbell says. “I don’t think there’s any amount of training that can prepare you for all the tragedy that you see.
“Most of us got into this job to get to help people and not really thinking about all the crappy things that you might see over the years.”
Earlier in her career, Campbell would wake up at night with hot sweats related to seeing traumatic events, but she’s grown accustomed to such scenes.
“Unfortunately, you get used to it and you sort of just move on to the next call,” she says.
However, the trauma has a cumulative effect, Campbell says.
“You just need to step back and take a break, and do something other than paramedic stuff, medical stuff - find an outside activity,” she says. “I have a puppy, and I take her on long walks and down to the beach and on trails. I do a lot of renos around the house. And I have a motorcycle. Those are the things that I like to do, to keep my mind off things and have an outside life.”
By Meghan Potkins, Calgary Herald
- While most major oil and construction industry employers already employ some form of testing, DARRPP is hoping the pilot project will demonstrate that random testing programs can be a significant deterrent to substance abuse in the workplace.
An independent group set up to study drug screening practices in the energy sector announced Wednesday details of a project that could see thousands of workers subject to random workplace testing as early as this fall.
The Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Pilot Project says participating companies will begin the pilot program in late 2012 and 2013.
Suncor Energy, Total E&P Canada and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. are the first to have signed on.
While most major oil companies already use some form of drug screening, DARRPP is hoping to prove that random testing can be a significant deterrent to substance abuse in the workplace.
“We’re still seeing quite a few positive tests. We’re also seeing people coming to work with risky behaviours that aren’t appropriate … and it poses serious risks to the individuals involved, their co-workers, families and communities,” said DARRPP administrator Pat Atkins.
Suncor said it will begin random tests of employees in safety-sensitive jobs beginning in October.
The oil giant has hired substance abuse professionals for its Fort McMurray operations and is preparing to use a third-party service to monitor the testing program.
“We have identified pressing workplace safety concerns in the Wood Buffalo region related to alcohol and drugs,” said a company spokesperson. “(Random testing) is necessary just to make sure that workers go home safely to their families at the end of shift.”
In 2008, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the right of employers to implement alcohol and drug testing policies.
But civil rights defenders say random tests raise all sorts of difficulties when it comes to the rights and privacy of workers.
Random testing can be considered discriminatory if it isn’t justified, said Linda McKay-Panos of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre.
Even justified testing can pose problems, says McKay-Panos, especially since traditional test methods are not foolproof and innocent workers are occasionally ensnared by inaccurate screening devices.
“It’s inaccurate, invasive and it violates the trust between employers and employees. There must be a different way to address the issue,” she said.
Calgary-based Cenovus Energy says it has a policy of testing employees in safety-sensitive jobs before they are hired.
“But (testing) isn’t randomly done otherwise throughout their employment,” said spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari.
“We do have a zero tolerance for people being under the influence of drugs at work. If anyone is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work, that staff member can be reported to a supervisor and that staff member will be immediately investigated.”
DARRPP says that practices like this are not as effective as they could be at identifying at-risk workers before an accident happens.
The group points to industry data showing that close to six times more alcohol and drug abuse problems are revealed in substance abuse assessments after an incident occurs than in pre-emptive tests prompted by supervisor observations.
But at least those simple observation are less invasive and much less costly, contends labour advocate Gil McGowan.
“It’s an unreasonable invasion of a worker’s privacy, and in many cases we believe these kind of regimes contravene human rights legislation,” said the Alberta Federation of Labour president.
DARRPP represents a group of industry associations and energy and construction sector companies, including: Building and Construction Trades Canada, the Christian Labour Association of Canada, the Oil Sands Safety Association, Construction Labour Relations (Alberta), the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada and the Construction Owners Association of Alberta.
The group says it will release the results of the pilot program in 2014 and that data gathered over the next two years will be used to build a framework for drug screening in the industry.
One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.
How the Sinaloa Cartel Smuggles Drugs Across Borders
Related in Opinion
The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.
Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.
So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.
Published on June 12, 2012 Jenny McCarthy
Natuashish boys receive severe burns; solvent abuse common: RCMP
A 13-year-old boy received severe burns when his legs caught fire while he inhaled gasoline from a plastic bag in Natuashish June 6. The previous week, an 11-year-old boy received burns over his legs while he sniffed gasoline.
Natuashish RCMP Sgt. Faron Harnum said police responded to the calls and made sure the boys received medical treatment. The 13-year-old is still in hospital in Happy Valley-Goose Bay being treated for his burns. Sgt. Harnum said inhaling gas is not illegal, but the local RCMP does its best to try to curb it.
“We do respond to such requests and we ensure the act is stopped.”
Harnum said they refer the children for medical attention and parents to child welfare (Child Youth and Family Services).
The children who inhale gasoline are known to gather in wooded areas to “sniff,” and Harnum said they have lately been setting small fires to bushes, moss and parts of trees.
He said it isn’t common for the RCMP to receive calls about kids getting burned, but it is common to get calls about gas sniffing. He said local officers do their best to help the community with the problem.
“For the most part, it’s a medical thing, an addiction. It’s also a parenting thing and when it comes to parenting, it takes a community to raise a child.”
Harnum said the community professionals, of which the RCMP is a part, as well as parents need to step up to help.
Solvent abuse in the community is not a new issue. Images of children sniffing gasoline in the late 1990s made international news and, despite lulls, the problem still exists. Youth with addictions were treated outside of the community and sent back, some to continue using and some not. In recent years, parents and community members have taken much of the job of healing into their own hands.
Rose Poker is one of the parents of a solvent-abusing child. She can’t physically get around to search for her 13-year-old son when he’s missing. Like other kids who sniff, sometimes he disappears for days.
Poker is still using crutches after a serious car accident last year, so the single mother sends out her eldest daughter to search. Like others out searching for their kids, she comes home empty handed.
“The kids hide each other,” she said.
Poker’s son went out of province for treatment last year and had his six-month program extended by three months.
When he returned, Poker said he was fine for a while but he recently disappeared for a few days and she found out he was sniffing. But it isn’t only her own son she’s concerned about. She said people know the kids who abuse solvents and she’s starting to see new and younger faces hanging around.
“I’m afraid that they don’t know that they are killing themselves slowly.”
The effects of inhaling propane and gasoline are quick and intense. They include a distorted perception of space and time, emotional disturbances and hallucinations. More severe effects are hypoxia, pneumonia, cardiac failure or cardiac arrest. Suffocation is also a concern for closed in areas. Long term inhaling of gasoline may cause degenerative diseases of the nervous system as well as permanent limb spasms, brain damage, muscle weakness and a loss of smell or hearing.
For the most part, the children syphon the gasoline from vehicles, or steal propane.
Virginia Collins also has a 13-year-old son with an inhalant addiction. He also spent some time out of the community in treatment last year, after which he stayed away from gas sniffing for some time. He started again a few weeks ago.
“I think the problem is that they come back to doing nothing in the community,” she said.
Collins said she wants to stop it before she has to see him sniffing every night again.
“People say you’re not doing enough for your kids and I feel like I’ve done everything.”
She said she can’t keep her son locked up in the house and even if she tried he would eventually find a way out.
Rose and Virginia felt there was more that could be done in the community. From their own experiences, they could see outside treatment may have worked temporarily, but was not solving the problem.
“We do need parents to step in and get motivated. They don’t need others to bring their kids home.”
They saw part of the problem as a lack of things to do in the community for many children.
Natuashish recently had an $8 million recreation centre built in the community, but Collins said it’s geared towards kids who enjoy sports, and many don’t. Those kids don’t have anywhere to go and that is why they end up in the wooded areas around the communities sniffing gas.
The two mothers organized a community meeting with other parents and interested parties on June 6 (coincidentally the same day the second boy was burned). They have also approached the band council to request funding for a youth centre for the young people.
“I remember when I was in my teens, even though we had terrible living conditions, we still had a place to go, there was an arcade and weekly dances. There’s nothing like that for the kids here,” Collins said.
Since the meeting, together with more than a dozen other parents and community members, Rose said they have taken it upon themselves to try to keep the kids away from solvents.
“We are planning to do things with kids every day, like taking them on boil-ups, playing games and having dances every Friday for them. In the meantime, we will be working on other programs for them.”
Rose and Virginia will be doing talk shows on the local radio station every Thursday to encourage more parents and people to get involve with stopping the abuse.
Natuashish Chief Simeon Tshakapesh said there is a lot being done and many people in the community interested in doing what they can to help the kids. He said the community has a lot of recreation programs in place for this summer. He agreed to turn a complex near the new recreation centre into a youth centre and said they would take care of putting games and activities in place for the children. He said they also have a golf range planned for the community.
Tshakapesh said the local addictions team is in the process of creating a solvent abuse program for youth. He couldn’t say when the programs would start.
“The centre is there and Border Beacon is all ready to go.”
Tshakapesh said a community group is also in the process of organizing a trip into the country for the youth engaged in sniffing.
“We’ve been doing a lot in the past couple of years for the kids. Now all they have to do is take the kids and treat them.”
Rose said she is considering leaving the community next year if her son doesn’t improve. She is hoping it won’t come to that, but said the well-being of her family comes first.
Coroner probes connection to other MDMA fatalities
THC decreases the normal activation in the striatum (blue area)
Brain imaging studies have allowed scientists to differentiate the effect on the brain of specific chemicals found in cannabis. The findings, published in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, provide the first experimental evidence of the effect cannabis has on the importance people attach to things they perceive and help explain why some more potent forms of the drugs are more strongly linked to psychosis.
Dr Sagnik Bhattacharyya and Professor Philip McGuire led the research at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. The study looked at 15 healthy men, who were occasional cannabis users, to examine the effects of the two main components of cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) on regional brain function.
The authors used functional MRI imaging to study each participant on three occasions after administration of THC, CBD or a placebo. They then performed a visual oddball detection task so that researchers could understand the importance each individual attached to specific stimuli.
THC significantly weakened the activation of the striatum and increased the activation of the lateral prefrontal cortex. The effect in the striatum was a result of THC increasing individuals’ response to normally insignificant stimuli, and decreasing its response to significant stimuli. The findings help explain why smoking cannabis can result in feelings of paranoia, or in the most extreme cases, psychotic episodes, as individuals attach special importance or meaning to normally insignificant experiences or stimuli.
However, cannabidiol (CBD),the other major ingredient in cannabis, had the opposite effect on the brain. CBD increased the response of the left caudate, an area of the brain weakened by THC.
Whilst the results are still preliminary, the findings suggest that psychotic symptoms may develop through individuals attaching inappropriate prominence to insignificant experiences or stimuli.
Dr Bhattacharyya says: ‘Our findings help shed further light on the mental and public health consequencesof cannabis. The increasing prevalence in Europe and the UK of more potent forms of cannabis with high levels of THC is worrying, as there is a strong evidence of a link between THC and psychosis in some individuals. However, there may be ingredients in cannabis, such as CBD, which could prove to be useful treatments for psychiatric conditions, but more research is needed here.’
The work was supported by a Joint Medical Research Council/Priory Clinical researchtraining fellowship from the Medical Research Council (UK) to Dr Bhattacharyya, a grant from the Psychiatry Research Trust (UK) and a Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (Brazil).
For full paper: Bhattacharyya et al. ‘Induction of psychosis by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol reflects modulation of prefrontal and striatal function during attention salience processing’ Archives of General Psychiatry (January 2012) doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.161