Teen’s over­dose a wake-up call

Health of­fi­cer ar­gues ‘say no’ ini­tia­tives can be harm­ful

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - David P. Ball

A 16-year-old’s over­dose death in New West­min­ster — caused by a sub­stance she thought was the party drug MDMA, police said — con­tin­ues to rock Power Al­ter­nate Sec­ondary School.

It’s a tight-knit school with just 66 stu­dents. On Tues­day, coun­sel­lors and psy­chol­o­gists re­mained on-site to help stu­dents and fac­ulty cope with the “heart­felt sor­row,” ac­cord­ing to Supt. Pat Duncan.

While much of the dis­cus­sion around the larger over­dose cri­sis has fo­cused on en­trenched ad­dic­tion and high-use neigh­bour­hoods, recre­ational users have been hit hard, too.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, a med­i­cal health of­fi­cer with Van­cou­ver Coastal Health, mes­sages like “Say no to drugs” are com­pletely in­ef­fec­tive — and even worsen teen drug abuse.

“Specif­i­cally when you make kids prom­ise not to use drugs, you’ve made it so they can’t come to you for help,” said Lysyshyn.

Sev­eral schools in Van­cou­ver, he said, are start­ing to carry nalox­one

of just 66 stu­dents.

over­dose-re­ver­sal kits. But the prob­lem is most youth are us­ing drugs off school grounds.

Les­lie McBain has spo­ken in high schools about her fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ence; her son Jor­dan died in 2014 from fen­tanyl.

“I don’t be­lieve that harm re­duc­tion will get more drugs to kids,” McBain said in an ear­lier in­ter­view. “Peo­ple at risk of ad­dic­tion and death will have the sup­port they need to stay alive.”


Power Al­ter­nate Sec­ondary School

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