Bahai News -- Educators discuss drugs

Educators discuss drugs

BY MARC LALONDE
The Chronicle
Marijuana is about 10 times more powerful than it was 25 years ago, and despite gaining popularity with some politicians, is still a dangerous and harmful drug, Montreal police Station 1 Const. Pierre Fauchier told a drug-education conference in Pierrefonds last Friday.


Chronicle, Peter McCabe
Theatre troupe Mise-o-jeu performs a dance routine illustrating the dangers of substance abuse at last Friday's drug conference.
About 150 West Island educators, nurses and police attended the day-long conference at the Louis Bourgeois Baha'i Centre, organized by the Table de Concertation de la Toxicomanie de l'Ouest de l'Ile with the mission of curbing illegal drug use by West Islanders of all ages.

Fauchier said recent rumblings about decriminalization or legalization of pot, the narcotic is still considered illegal.

"It's still illegal, so, as police, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," said Fauchier of the drug, whose proponents laud it as being less dangerous and addictive than legal stimulants such as cigarettes or alcohol.

"The rites of passage, as older people remember it, are gone. The drugs today are so dangerous, it's like the difference between drinking .5 per cent alcohol beer and beer with 10 per cent alcohol. It's a whole different world. THC (the active chemical in marijuana) levels have risen from less than one per cent in the 1970s to an average of eight to 10 per cent today," said Fauchier. "I've seen pot in Quebec that has been tested at 26 per cent and pot has been tested in Vancouver at 34 per cent THC. It's staggering," he said.

Viviane Briand, Lester B. Pearson School Board's drug educator, said the key to keeping children away from marijuana is to get the drug-education message clear: Pot is illegal and can - and will - hurt you.

"We've come a long way since 1994, when there was no avenue available to English-speaking adolescents to get treated for drug addiction in Quebec, but not far enough," she said. "We're sending kids a mixed message by talking about legalizing marijuana. As far as we know right now, there's no reason to legalize it, and even then, legal doesn't necessarily mean safe. We have to teach kids life skills, self-esteem, social skills and conflict resolution. All these things will help kids better confront their problems straight up instead of using drugs. They develop resiliency so they're better able to deal with the challenges they're going to face."

Lakeshore Alternative Program specialist Greg Thomas said those tools would benefit both kids who already have drug habits and those who have yet to experiment with drugs.

"Because some kids have drug problems when they come to us, and some have never tried drugs, we want to help all those kids improve their self-esteem so the kids who have never tried drugs don't say 'Hey, that looks like fun. Why don't I try it?' That's where we're the first line of defence. We all see that. It's a matter of giving kids the tools to make the right decisions," said the Dollard des Ormeaux resident.

Portage drug and alcohol re-adaptation centre staff member Danielle Des Marais said the workshop was designed to give educators a network and resources with which to make their own lives easier.

"The big part is to put everybody together. Sometimes people just don't know where to look for help on a certain subject. Our hope is that when they leave here, they'll know that," she said.

©Copyright 2002, Montreal West Island Chronicle (Canada)


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