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190,000 people in B.C. have used crystal meth in past year
Amy O'Brian. The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, B.C.: Jun 9, 2005. pg. A.1.Fro

Report to be released Friday says drug is spreading across country

Crystal meth, the dangerous drug of choice for an increasing number of regular drug users, is migrating across Canada from west to east, bringing devastating health effects to its users and complex challenges to those working to prevent its spread.

A new report on the drug's presence in western Canada will be presented Friday to a special meeting of provincial government ministers and representatives from U.S. border states, who are working to prevent the use of crystal meth.

The report shows that British Columbia has the highest number of methamphetamine users -- with about 190,000 people using the drug at least once in the past year -- followed by Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There is also evidence of increasing hospital admissions and police contact with people high on the drug.

But while the report notes the unquestionable need for a comprehensive strategy to combat crystal meth, the health and law enforcement experts who contributed to it also say Canada is not in the midst of a meth crisis.

Street kids, party drug users and gay men are increasingly using crystal meth because it's cheap and the high can last for days, but the report says the drug is not catching on with other populations.

"Most people, if they're using methamphetamine, they're going to do it once or twice and then they're going to quit," said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s provincial health officer and a contributor to the report.

"We've just replaced the drug of choice with something that is cheaper and longer-lasting, that's why it's nasty."

The drug, also known as jib or crank, curbs hunger and can keep the user awake for days. Long-term use can lead to symptoms of psychosis, paranoia, and depression.

A 2004 study showed that 5.1 per cent of B.C.'s population had used the drug at least once during the previous year. In Alberta, four per cent of the population -- or 108,000 people -- had used it; in Manitoba, three per cent of the population -- or 33,400 people -- had used it; and in Saskatchewan, 2.8 per cent of the population -- or 27,700 people -- had used crystal meth at least once in the previous year.

Those numbers may sound alarmingly high, but Kendall put them in perspective by comparing them to the rates of cocaine and crack use.

In B.C., studies show 7.3 per cent of the population has tried crystal meth at least once in their lifetime, while 16.3 per cent has tried cocaine or crack, Kendall said.

Street kids and club-goers make up the largest group of regular crystal meth users, but the report says the drug also appeals to students, athletes, waiters, long-distance drivers, and software programmers.

But the drug has not yet become a drug of choice for high school students and the report says scare tactics and meth-specific campaigns aimed at that age group will not be successful.

"What doesn't seem to work is the sort of overblown, overdramatization of the dangers," Kendall said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Before we're saying it's having a horrible effect on communities let's try and step back and find out what it is doing to our communities."

In B.C., the number of deaths related to crystal-meth has been steadily rising since 2000, when there were just two recorded by the coroners service. In 2003, there were 12 meth-related deaths.

And in Victoria, the number of crystal meth users treated at the youth detox centre there jumped from 11 per cent in 2000 to 61 per cent in 2003/2004.

The report is based on information gathered last November during a three-day summit in Vancouver, where 250 delegates shared their expertise and knowledge in an effort to put together a realistic, evidence-based assessment of the crystal meth situation in the western provinces and northern territories.

Dr. Doug McGhee, a representative from Victoria's youth and sexually transmitted disease clinics, told the summit there is clear evidence the problem is growing in his city.

"Among people admitted to emergency for psychosis in Victoria and Vancouver Island, it used to be predominantly people suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Now it's 50-per-cent crystal meth users," McGhee told the group.

Representatives from the RCMP shared with the summit their concerns that the penalties for people making and dealing crystal meth are not stiff enough.

Sgt. Doug Culver, head of the RCMP's national chemical diversion program, told the group that penalties associated with crystal meth are generally lighter than those associated with marijuana and heroin.

Culver could not be reached Wednesday for comment, but Kendall said there is a desire among law enforcement officials to reclassify crystal meth as a dangerous drug, which would enable judges to hand out stiffer sentences to dealers and people who make the drug.

Unlike marijuana operations, crystal meth labs can be set up nearly anywhere -- in the back of a truck, a small apartment or hotel room -- and can produce large amounts of the drug in a single day. The ingredients used to "cook" crystal meth can be easily purchased at drug and hardware stores.

The authors of the report recommend regulating the chemicals used to make crystal meth, with hopes it will make the ingredients less accessible and therefore slow or disrupt the production of the drug.


190,000 British Columbians used crystal meth in the last year.

Nightclub-goers, street youth and gay men most at risk.

Deaths related to the drug steadily rising in B.C. since 2000.

- - -

Vancouver street youth who had tried amphetamine-type stimulants:


Gay men surveyed in British Columbia who had used methamphetamine:


British Columbians who had used methamphetamine in the last year:


Duration of a crystal meth high:

10-12 hours

Graphic/Diagram: Top Image: Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun / Crystal meth is easy to find almost anywhere in downtown Vancouver these days. At a cost of $10 a 'point,' street dealers call it the trendy drug, replacing crack cocaine as the drug of choice for many users. It's cheap, readily available and the high from it lasts for hours, say users. Darryl Burke agreed to pose with a sample of the drug in an alley off Granville Street and Helmcken Street where crystal meth was being openly sold. Burke said he's not a regular user of crystal meth, but he's seen the drug drive friends into psychosis and lead to terrible rashes all over their bodies.; Photo: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun Files / A 2004 study showed that 5.1 per cent of B.C.'s population has used crystal meth at least once during the previous year and 7.3 per cent have tried the drug at least once in their lifetime.


I live in Toronto, and I have no idea what the meth scene is like around my area. At this plaza near my building, there's alot of pimply-faced weirdos who stand in the most odd point of the street (right near the edge looking like they want a cab or a ride somewhere). They dress in suits and uniforms to look different (I guess) and one of them slants his head on one side and grinds his teeth if you look him in the eye. Not to meantion they all look like retards and one had track marks in her arm.

besides that I've only known of one kid whose done meth and was hooked on E for about a year, he's stopped though, after I told him about how people go fucking nuts on that shit.
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