Education seems to be winning the battle against crystal meth in Leduc, though community members are concerned that dealers are now hiding meth in other forms to trick youth.
"I think most people know that crystal meth is exceedingly dangerous, and I think we've seen campaigns from every level of government not to use it. I think most youth have got that message," explained Leduc Community Drug Action Committee (LCDAC) coordinator Heather Graham, who cautioned that more education is still needed.
"What's being marketed as ecstasy in Leduc is actually crystal meth. So it's still an issue, and youth are accessing it without realizing it."
"We don't see a lot of meth out here," agreed Leduc RCMP Drug Enforcement officer John Baker, who noted that education shedding a negative light on the drug has been effective. "It's sort of a niche drug for some people, since it does have a stigma."
According to the Government of Alberta's Premier's Task Force on Crystal Meth, it is an illegal "easy and inexpensive to make" drug with recipes including household ingredients like paint thinner, drain cleaner and cold medications. Crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant that causes a long high lasting from eight to 24 hours, and it is the smokeable form of the drug methamphetamine, a derivative of amphetamine. Meth users report increased concentration and extended periods of insomnia, along with side effects such as psychosis, seizures, heart attacks and strokes.
Ecstasy is the street name for an illegal chemical called MDMA that is usually sold in pill form, and often contains other illegal substances. The drug is often seen in connection to rave culture and the dance scene in the province — an Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission study determined that "the rave scene is a setting where drug use is generally accepted" noting some dancers feel that ecstasy-like drugs enhance raves.
Alberta Health Services explained that the pills make sensations stronger, and cause users to "feel tipsy" and "trusting, loving and warm towards others" while experiencing a four to six hour high. Among ecstasy's side effects are panic attacks, a feeling of anxiousness, a raised heart rate and blurred vision. Ecstasy overdoses that resulted in death have been reported in Alberta —Baker noted that reports of the deaths seem to have led to a drop in demand for the pills.
Baker explained that the police have noticed that crystal meth, while an unattractive substance for most drug users, still finds its way into the hands of unsuspecting youth. He noted that ecstasy isn't very addictive by itself, but dealers have been adding meth to make the pills both cheaper to produce and more addictive. The Premier's Task Force noted official police estimates that 70 to 75 per cent of Alberta's ecstasy contains meth.
"We're seeing that in Alberta. We came across this situation where we caught this person with what looked like ecstasy pills — they were actually pure meth. It just goes to show that you don't know (what is in street pills)," Baker said.
Leduc Mayor Greg Krischke pointed out that Leduc isn't unique in confronting drugs, and praised the proactive work of the Drug Action Committee.
"We are not unlike any other community in Alberta," Krischke said. "We are all grappling with the same issues. We believe that we are very proactive in how we are dealing with it, and we consider ourselves a safe community and we want to make sure it says a safe community."
"When we first started (the committee) there was a really bad crystal meth problem in Hinton and Drayton Valley. A serious, serious problem. It scared us, and we wanted to get out ahead of the gate. We didn't want to wait until it was a problem and then deal with it, we wanted to deal with it before hand."
He said that community education has helped to combat meth in Leduc.
He noted that the committee has been educating youth, informing businesses what to look for in terms of suspect purchases that could be used to make the drug, and teaching garbage collectors what to observe in household waste that might indicate crystal meth production.
That community education needs to be aimed at both parents and kids, according to MLA George Rogers.
"If the adults don't have a sense of what's out there and what their kids are getting into they can't guide them. Education should be two part — first, there's no safe drug, you try the wrong thing and you could be hooked. Second, educate the parents that didn't grow up with these drugs," Rogers said. "I don't think you're going to win the battle by policing and fines on their own. We have to crank up the support in those areas, but it's not enough.
"If you're spending the bulk of your time on corrective actions, I think you've lost the war. You really need to do a lot more to educate people, and educating adults is a very big part of it."
Rogers encouraged citizens to "stay vigilant," noting that drugs were in Leduc when he was growing up here, and would likely remain in the community.
Ald. Dana Smith, LCDAC member, agreed that more information for youth can only help combat drug abuse, noting that people are "fooling themselves" if they don't realize how readily available illegal drugs are in the community.
"The more information the better," Smith said.
"So many people think that if you talk about it, the kids are gonna do it. I don't think so. I think so many times there's so many things you don't want to talk about because of fear, and I don't think you want fear to rule your decisions – you want the knowledge and the facts."