NARCOTICS TALES FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE LAW
Hanna Herald -- Students and parents in Hanna were given a glimpse into the inner workings of the drug trade on May 9 with presentations from both the RCMP and a former trafficker turned anti-drug campaigner.
Mike Ryan, CEO and program director of CleanScene, an anti-crime and drug program and website, gave three presentations, two at J.C. Charyk School for students and another at the Lion's Hall with Cpl. Donna Hanson of the RCMP and liason officer Cst. Chris Zanidean.
Cpl. Hanson's seminar was a technical look at some of the common street drugs found on Alberta's streets, what they look like and their effects.
"What I do is look at the big picture of what is on the streets and what we encounter," she said. "I address the drugs, identify them and their users and describe what the long-term effects are."
Some of the audience members were shocked by the statistics. The average age for smoking is 10 years old, drinking and smoking marijuana is 12 years old. More children and youths are using marijuana and it is more potent than 15 years ago. Cpl. Hanson said there are numerous concerns with the increased use, including health and crime rates.
"Over 80 per cent of crimes committed are drug-related and the long-term effects of chronic use will take its toll on our health care system," she said.
Among the drugs she touched on were marijuana, which she said Calgary grows are valued in the millions of dollars, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstacy, LSD, PCP, Ketamine, mushrooms, and cough remedies containing DXM.
"Who are doing these drugs? The curious, partygoers and chronic users," she said.
Ryan's seminars were multi-pronged. He speaks about his life in the drug trade, the people he met ( most are now dead ) and the places he has been. Foremost, he speaks on the legal drug culture, pharmaceutical companies and their sometimes illicit methods to push medications on the public.
"From an early age we are telling people their problems can be solved by taking this pill or that pill. There are over 10,000 medications out on the market today. We do not need that many."
He added in Canada it is illegal for pharmaceutical companies to advertise medicines on television, but they are allowed because they generate revenue for the networks.
Ryan modified his seminars for his audiences. With the older high school students, he was more blunt, giving a stark picture of his life of crime and what drove him to become what he was. During the presentation, he surprised some of the students by claiming he could pick out the drug users just by looking at them. He can do this, he said because they used to be his customers.
"It is more effective to speak in terms the students will understand," he said. "I am more upfront with the older teenagers because that is how they talk. I want them to see what negative thinking and choices can lead to."
Ryan said the key to preventing drug use is to modify thought patterns. It was negative thinking, he said, that led him to drug abuse.
He was an aspiring athlete as a teenager before a motorcycle accident landed him in the hospital. He was given painkillers, which he claims began his addiction, coupled with the disappointment of losing his athletic identity started his downward spiral into near self destruction.
His life of crime led him to do time in the Drumheller prison. Only then did he make a true effort to clean himself up.
He eventually earned a university degree and married a teacher he met during one of his seminars.
The physical symptoms of almost a lifetime of abuse has taken its toll. He has hair loss, liver damage, memory problems, an enlarged heart and he was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes last year.
Speaking to parents, he stated that overeating and jumping to conclusion would nly push their children away. Parents must take a long, hard look at their child's behaviour before confronting them.
"Don't flip out, you will only push you child further away," Ryan said. "Take a good hard look at their behaviour, ask questions and make an informed decision. Drugs corrupt everyone but we can still save them if we give them options."