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Methamphetamine Use in Our Community


It is no secret that illegal substances have been an issue. Over time, people have found themselves addicted, turning to crime to pay for their new habits, and even in the worst cases, living on the streets because of it.
While the issue continues to grow, the substance at question changes over the years. And now, we’re looking at an escalated problem. Crystal Meth use is experiencing a rapid rise in this country, especially among youth and early teenagers. The drug is cheap in cost and provides a fast and powerful high, which makes it very attractive to the user.
“Crystal Meth is a stimulant drug,” said a representative from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM). “This means it speeds up both mental and physical functions in the brain and body.”
But, Crystal Meth carries a steep price. Casual use of the drug can quickly escalate to prolonged use and creates a variety of health and social problems for the user and the people around them.
Methamphetamine, Crystal Meth, Meth, Chalk, Crank, Ice, Speed, Poor Man’s Cocaine, or whatever you choose to call it, has seen a huge rise right here at home, in our Valley.
Many different organizations in our surrounding areas recognize that the steady increase of usage and overusage locally has become a problem. Crime rates have increased with it, as well as the number of parphernalia found around our streets and parks.
“At AFM in Swan River we have seen an increase in the number of people disclosing use of Crystal Meth but many of these are reports of irregular use,” said AFM of Swan River member Suzanne May. “Although, it is not the primary or secondary drug of choice. We have seen an increase in reports of individual’s choosing Crystal Meth as an alternative to their drug of choice.”
The lower cost and easy accessibility are the cause for the turn around.
“While the use of crystal meth appears to be increasing in Manitoba this is a symptom of larger issues around colonization, trauma, poverty, racism, and so forth,” said Medical Officer of Health, Prairie Mountain Health Dr. Amy Frykoda. “Human beings have always and will always use psychoactive substances. Today meth is popular but they may shift to a different drug in the future. What is most important is that we are working towards helping people promote health in their own lives by working towards things like reducing poverty, increasing opportunity for recreation in the community and following the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the meantime, focusing on harm reduction remains an essential action to help prevent the harms associated with meth use.”
While the medical professionals are focusing greatly on harm reduction within the addicted community, the Swan River RCMP remain focused on the safety of the citizens and making sure the surrounding population is informed in the methods of use when coming across someone under the influence.
“Call the police (if you come across someone under the influence in distress),” said Swan River RCMP Sergeant Steve Henson. “A decision will be made as to whether this is a case where someone is lodged in a cell until sober or whether there needs to be a medical assessment first.
“Extreme behaviour would likely result in an ambulance being dispatched at the same time. It is usually treated primarily as a medical emergency and the Police would be there to assist Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Don’t put yourself at risk, call into the Police immediately and give what information you know.”
The information given should include location, name of the person if you know it, gender, physical description, description of clothing, and a description of behaviour.
Henson noted that it can be difficult to distinguish meth use from other substances.
“Many symptoms will be the same or similar to other illicit or misused drugs,” he said.
“Someone under the influence of methamphetamine will temporarily feel euphoric, confident, powerful, and full of energy,” added a representative from AFM. “Along with the desired effects, the person will also possibly feel hot and sweaty, anxious and irritable, fearful or paranoid, and potentially aggressive and violent. They’ll have excess energy, irritation, outbursts or mood swings, fast and continuous speech with a lack of focus, dilated pupils, rapid eye movement, twitching, facial tics, jerky movements, exaggerated mannerisms, picking at skin, profuse sweating, flushed skin, loss of appetite and weight loss, odd sleeping patterns that can include periods of being awake for days, paranoia or hallucinations.”
It is best to not confront anyone. But, if you find yourself in the middle of a situation you didn’t ask for there are also steps you can take to diffuse the situation.
“Remain calm, speak slowly, and use a reassuring tone of voice,” said the AFM representative. “Use the person’s name if you know it and have the person move to a quiet, low stimulus space. As most users are dehydrated an offering of water can also help. Most users suffer from paranoia and may react to threats you don’t perceive.”
You are urged not to get too close if the person is hurt or bleeding as methods of drug use that involve exposure to blood or other body fluids carry the risk of the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted and blood borne infections.
As of early December,Paramedics and EMS are now able to administer Olanzapine to agitated people who have used methamphetamine and are at risk of suffering psychosis as another tool to protect their patients, themselves, and others, making them the best first responders to an issue. The drug helps lesson or prevent the severity and duration of symptoms, such as agitation, for meth users. The new legislation will help to empower first responders to safely support the surrounding population.
Looking to bring awareness to the growing problem, a Crystal Meth forum in Swan River was held on Nov. 8 where service providers from health, mental health, addictions, justice, education, Family Services, and housing were among those in attendance.
“This was an agency and service provider discussion forum that Swan River AFM organized,” said May. “We provided a short presentation, after which we discussed what other agencies in the community were seeing. Agencies are seeking and informing themselves with more information about Crystal Meth, such as: symptoms of abuse; resources; how to identify if it’s meth or other substances; what are other communities doing; and what strategies are being implemented.”
“The forum was very successful with a lot of open discussion, and will be continued at a planned follow-up agency meeting. This will be planned for early in the New Year.”
As a community, we are all in charge of our safety, and having the information to properly do so goes along way.
For more information visit www.afm.mb.ca, www.gov.mb.ca/health/mh/addictions.

Jakki Lumax