Square One Community Inc. continued its ongoing Lunch n’ Learn educational series on June 8 with a presentation highlighting the realities of meth addiction that coincided with Crystal Meth Awareness Week in Moose Jaw.
Mary Lee Booth, prevention and awareness campaign co-ordinator for the Moose Jaw Crystal Meth Strategy Committee (MJCMSC), and recovering addict and drug treatment court graduate Meagan Jasper both spoke during the free session, sharing their knowledge about crystal meth.
The MJCMSC began after several partner organizations in the community, including the Moose Jaw Police Service and local health organizations, noticed an increase in the number of individuals in the community involved with crystal meth.
Booth said that there was a clear increase of individuals with meth-related symptoms coming into the hospital’s emergency department and inpatient services. The number of individuals checking into mental health and addictions programs is also up by 50 per cent.
Meth-related possession charges across the province have also been on the rise since 2015, with the number of simple possession charges increasing by 2,000 per cent and trafficking possession charges by 2,800 per cent.
As a man-made substance, Booth said that meth has become very easy to acquire in many Saskatchewan communities, including Moose Jaw. Crystal meth is often made with household chemicals like cold medicine, battery acid and paint thinner, and it’s sometimes cut with other illicit drugs.
“Our police friends say that it is produced locally and so cheaply that it makes the drug cheap to buy, so there is really a market out there,” said Booth. “But (it’s made) of things that are not meant to be consumed by the human body.”
The MJCMSC is looking to raise awareness about the dangerous addictive qualities and health concerns associated with meth use.
“Of course it kind of goes without saying, but crystal meth use impacts not only the individual,” said Booth. “It’s such a powerful drug that it makes people think and do things they would not typically do (and) can cause some to have psychotic episodes which makes it really potentially dangerous for everyone involved, including police, EMS, and healthcare workers attending to them.”
Crystal meth produces a euphoric high that can last anywhere from four to 12 hours, said Booth, but becomes less effective after even the first use — which is why it can be so addictive for users.
“The person is a victim to that drug because it changes brain chemistry and this is important to understand [when] we talk about crystal meth. Addiction is a health issue and it becomes a criminal issue because when people get so entrenched in that addiction,” said Booth. “But there is hope, and addiction is treatable.”
Booth finished her presentation by sharing that Moose Jaw has several supports in place for addiction treatment, as well as a harm reduction and needle exchange program operating at Crescent View Clinic on 1st Ave NE.
She also encouraged residents to report unusual activity that could be related to crystal meth use, trafficking or creation to the police, as it could be “a piece of the puzzle” for an ongoing investigation.
As a former crystal meth user, Jasper concluded the session by speaking about her journey from first using as a teen to being four years sober after completing drug treatment court in Regina almost two decades later.
Jasper said that she feels an awareness program about the dangers of drug addiction for teens would be very beneficial, as well as programs with full housing, social and counselling support like she received from Kate's Place in Regina.
"There's no cure for addiction," said Jasper. "I wish there was, but there isn't. The only thing there is, is treatment."
The MJCMSC is debuting a film on June 9 for Crystal Meth Awareness Week titled “Stop Mething Around,” which will share Jasper’s story alongside another local individual to put a spotlight on the danger of crystal meth use.
The Square One presentation series, which aims to help educate attendees about the various barriers that affect homelessness, will continue on July 8 at noon with guest speaker Sue Delanoy speaking on “The Over-Incarceration of Women, Young Mothers, and Aboriginal Women.” There is no cost to attend and those interested can register in advance by emailing email@example.com.