‘It stole a life from me,’ says for­mer metham­phetamine ad­dict

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY NI­COLE MUNRO THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Kevin Bralovich was in Hal­i­fax for only a cou­ple of weeks be­fore he headed back across Canada, leav­ing his wife and daugh­ter for the drug crys­tal meth.

“We moved to Nova Sco­tia to get away from it and I lost it,” re­called the for­mer metham­phetamine ad­dict, who is now clean for 16 years.

“It stole a life from me,” he said. “There was no prom­ise I could keep. There was no per­son who could help me stay away.”

Nine­teen years ago, Bralovich tried crys­tal meth for the first time a week be­fore his wed­ding.

“I had never done any hard drugs. You know, I had tried some be­fore but never any­thing crazy,” said the 40-year-old in a phone in­ter­view.

Bralovich was work­ing night shifts and with his fam­ily in town for the wed­ding, “it just seemed like it made sense” to be awake as much as pos­si­ble.

‘In­stantly hooked’

“It seemed con­ve­nient at the time, but lit­tle did I know I was in­stantly hooked on meth,” he said.

From there, the Bri­tish Columbia na­tive went in and out of re­hab, but it never stuck.

“You start pick­ing at your face, you start get­ting scabs, you pick at those,” said Bralovich. “It’s like your mind is taken con­trol by some­thing else.”

In a four-month span, Bralovich racked up 42 charges, such as theft, in Bri­tish Columbia, where he was sen­tenced to serve jail time.

“I had a busi­ness, I had a house, I had a ve­hi­cle, I had ev­ery­thing go­ing for me,” he said, “but it was all taken away from me.”

Af­ter one month in jail, Bralovich at­tended a court-or­dered re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram at Hope Farm So­ci­ety in Stewiacke.

“It was mas­sive, stay­ing in a place where you have ac­count­abil­ity ... coun­selling and learn­ing to do some­thing,” said Bralovich.

Shortly af­ter Bralovich fin­ished his one-year treat­ment at Hope Farm in 2004, it closed.

Mau­reen Wheller, Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity’s ad­dic­tions spokes­woman, said adults over the age of 19 may be placed in pro­grams af­ter be­ing as­sessed by a clin­i­cian.

A client may be ad­mit­ted to the in­pa­tient with­drawal man­age­ment, a med­i­cal with­drawal and group pro­gram where one can stay up to 21 days, or com­mu­nity-based ser­vices, such as re­cov­ery houses and shel­ters.

“These de­ci­sions are based on the in­for­ma­tion the client dis­closes,” said Wheller.

The NSHA doesn’t fre­quently see metham­phetamine use, said the health au­thor­ity spokes­woman, but when it does, the client is of­ten us­ing other sub­stances.

Sus­pected in­crease in meth use

While the health au­thor­ity doesn’t see many metham­phetamine ad­dicts, po­lice of­fi­cers are see­ing the op­po­site on the streets.

Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, RCMP spokes­woman, said while she can only speak anec­do­tally based on what RCMP are see­ing on duty, they sus­pect there is an in­crease in metham­phetamine use, es­pe­cially out­side of the Hal­i­fax re­gion.

Over the past five years, Hal­i­fax Re­gional Po­lice had 17 seizures of metham­phetamine, to­talling 300 grams.

“What we see most of­ten is the tablet form of metham­phetamine, which is also known as ice pills, but we have also started see­ing it in other forms in­clud­ing crys­tal meth,” said Clarke.

Metham­phetamine is a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to co­caine and is eas­ily ob­tained and man­u­fac­tured, said the RCMP spokes­woman.

“If there was a sud­den, rapid and dra­matic in­crease in any one type of drug use with in­creased per­sonal and pub­lic harms there would be a pro­vin­cial health re­sponse to in­crease ser­vices to meet an emerg­ing need,” said Wheller.

Dr. Sheri Fan­drey, knowl­edge ex­change lead at the Ad­dic­tions Foun­da­tion of Man­i­toba, saw the in­flux of metham­phetamines in Man­i­toba in 2003 and again in 2015.

‘One of the most ad­dic­tive sub­stances’

“It is quite pos­si­bly one of the most ad­dic­tive sub­stances that we have,” said Fan­drey.

The prairie prov­ince’s ad­dic­tions foun­da­tion had adapted its re­sources to the pre­vi­ous fen­tanyl in­flux, which has sim­i­lar treat­ment meth­ods, so the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sources were easy to ac­cess.

“The big­gest dif­fer­ence for peo­ple us­ing metham­phetamine is the need for a pe­riod of time dur­ing with­drawal,” said the doc­tor.

With­drawal symp­toms, such as re­duced cog­ni­tive func­tion, can last for up to two-to-three weeks and ef­fect treat­ment as a lot of meth­ods rely on cog­ni­tive be­hav­iour ther­apy, she said.

“For peo­ple who have se­ri­ous prob­lems with meth, that in­pa­tient, in-house treat­ment is prob­a­bly the most ef­fec­tive,” said Fan­drey.

Although Man­i­toba has been deal­ing with the flood of metham­phetamines into the prov­ince over the years, Fan­drey ranked her prov­ince as a four out of 10 for hav­ing it un­der con­trol.

“It’s as low as it is be­cause we don’t have the ca­pac­ity around trauma ser­vices,” said the knowl­edge ex­change lead. “For peo­ple who have had se­ri­ous prob­lems with metham­phetamines, it’s al­most a guar­an­tee there is prior trauma.

Trauma of­ten a fac­tor

“For the small mi­nor­ity that aren’t us­ing large amounts of meth be­cause of trauma, once they start us­ing meth that way, they ex­pe­ri­ence trauma.”

Fan­drey said the need for long-term sup­port af­ter treat­ment is needed across Canada.

“The po­ten­tial vul­ner­a­bil­ity for an ex­tended pe­riod of time — a year to two years — is not un­usual,” she said.

The year Bralovich spent at Hope Farm is one of the rea­sons why he’s been clean for 16 years.

“You have to ac­tu­ally go through the sea­sons of life,” said the for­mer ad­dict.

“You think ev­ery­thing is peachy keen, life is so good and then months later, you start to re­al­ize, hey, I have to go back to life one day, so you need that sup­port,” he said.

Bralovich, his wife and two daugh­ters are to move to Hal­i­fax in June, as the cou­ple plans to open a com­mu­nity farm for ad­dic­tion.

ERIC DAVIS

Kevin and Dawn Bralovich are pic­tured out­side the for­mer Hope Farm So­ci­ety in Stewiacke ear­lier this year. Kevin spent a year re­cov­er­ing from his crys­tal meth ad­dic­tion at the farm 16 years ago. Now he’s in­ter­ested in help­ing oth­ers bat­tling ad­dic­tion.

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