Recovering addicts alert middle school students to dangers of crystal meth. Students at Spencer middle school got a crystal-clear look at life on meth through the words of two peers currently in recovery.
Brenna Barker and Morgana Glass spoke openly about their descent into the living hell of meth-amphetamine before fielding questions from the students who packed Isabelle Reader Theatre Tuesday for three presentations by the Crystal Meth Victoria Society.
Barker, who started smoking meth when she was 11, said the biggest challenge for her has been to stay away from downtown and friends who still use meth.
“It’s easier (to stay away) now,” said the 17-year-old who’s been clean for the past three months. “It’s everywhere, so I stay home a lot and try to keep busy and look for work.”
Barker says she feels a lot stronger mentally, physically and emotionally now that she’s gotten her health back, and that helps considerably in her efforts to stay clean.
Speaking to students candidly for only the second time since she quit, Barker said although the experience is “very emotional,” she feels better afterwards.
“It makes me feel stronger, and I definitely feel like I’m making a difference with other kids,” she said.
She warned the kids that they may not even know they’re trying meth — it could be in the ecstasy they buy at a party or laced within the weed they smoke.
“Don’t touch it, and stay away from anyone who uses it,” she said. “It will take over your life in the first 24 hours.”
Glass, who started when she was 15 and was using using every day within a year, cited three incidents that played key roles in her decision to quit.
Being bitten and scarred for life by a police dog while attempting her first break and enter, a savage beating by baseball-bat-wielding assailants and her boyfriend’s incarceration for a retaliatory attack all pushed her toward the decision to quit, Glass said.
Although the first time she quit lasted two weeks, Glass, 20, has since been clean for close to a year, other than five occasions when she drifted back to meth for a day.
“I felt stronger after each time,” she says regarding her relapses. “And it gives me another reason to hate this stuff.”
While staying clean is getting easier, there are different challenges now like short-term memory loss and difficulty organizing simple tasks, Glass noted.
She’s currently working as a dishwasher while she completes her high school education, with an eye toward attending Camosun College to prepare her for a better-paying job so she can buy a car and own a home one day.
“The hardest part is that some days I don’t feel normal,” said Glass. “Sometimes I feel like my head is in my body, but that’s the addiction part from waking up every morning and smoking a bowl.”
Spencer middle school counsellor Hilde Plotnikoff emphasized the need to raise students’ awareness of the dangers of meth.
“Kids this age are entering the world and need to make informed choices about the dangers of this destructive drug,” Plotnikoff said.
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“Meth is really destructive because it’s a great high that’s very cheap and highly addictive.”
While she understands some parents may think presentations of this sort make some kids more curious about trying the drug, Plotnikoff believes the opposite is actually true
“Peer pressure from kids pointing out the dangers has a positive effect, she said. “There’s a huge impact when the message comes from kids their own age about the implications of becoming addicted on their families, friends and the community.”
Crystal Meth Victoria Society president Mark McLaughlin underlined the importance of getting the message across as students are about to head into the Christmas break and party season, where they may be offered the drug for the first time.
He lauded Spencer’s proactive, welcoming approach to inviting the Society on the presentation, noting that some of the school’s he approaches are reluctant to take part.
Society co-founder Marilyn Erickson was 40 when her life spiraled into crack addiction after she lost her son in a car accident.
Erickson, who has devoted the last two years to offering hope to thousands of people addicted to meth, noted that meth is now the second most popular drug on the planet, second to marijuana, and the number of meth deaths is doubling each year.
There is currently only one government-funded youth detox centre with six beds currently available for youth on the South Island, she said, and that one deals with addictions of all sorts rather than specializing in meth.
There are no long-term treatment beds available, and private facilities are expensive, Erickson said.
She pointed out that he price - roughly $10 for enough to stay high for a day - makes it attractive to kids from all demographics including honour roll students, white middle class, First Nations or dropouts.
McLaughlin said Crystal Meth Victoria Society is changing its name to the Crystal Meth Society of B.C. at the beginning of the new year as the society takes its message to other parts of the province.
By Rick Stiebel/Goldstream News Gazette/Dec 15 2006