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FROM PLAYGROUNDS TO PRISONS
(Prince Edward Island's Home Newspaper),
May 22, 2003
by Patricia Roy
70 per cent of prison population kooked on drugs or alcohol
RCMP Cpl. Ken Murray, drug awareness, holds an information sheet on OxyContin, the upcoming drug of choice for those addicted to prescription medication. The drug is strong and intended to relieving severe pain. Public presentations of Joan Gadsby's workshops on Addiction by Prescription took place May 14 from 7 to 9p.m. at the Dutch Inn in Cornwall, at the Loyalist Country Inn in Summerside May 15 and at the Mill River Resort May 16.
Although Cpl. Ken Murray was aware children had been increasingly medicated for a number of ailments over the last few years, the full realization of just how much happened during one of the most wholesome of childhood activities - a Boy Scout Jamboree.
The jamboree, held on the Island in 2000, involved 14,000 kids from Canada and other areas of the world.
Murray, along with other Island RCMP officers, had set up an information booth during the jamboree as part of their drug awareness program.
"It seemed that every fifth child who came into the tent would point to some drug they were on from a list of addictive drugs."
He added that every scout leader had bags of medication to pass out to these children every night.
Murray recalled reading a doctor's column a few years ago which questioned, "how could five million kids get diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) almost overnight?"
He said it's a well-known fact among parents that, no matter what they would take their child to see a doctor for, some physicians prescribe certain drugs without properly investigating the reason for the visit.
Children on those drugs will likely grow up unable to cope with daily life without the use of medication or a chemical dependency of some kind. "It's a no-brainer. They (the pills) are also ending up on the streets."
However, he said people also expect to get a prescription every time they go to see a doctor and, because they want their problem fixed, most don't care to hear about the side effects.
He sees part of the solution as more diligence on the part of people who know best and that's the medical profession, "the people who are actually prescribing them," Murray said.
Substance abuse is costly. The latest Canadian statistics in terms of hospital care, policing, lost productivity and so on estimated addiction costs Canadians $18.5 billion a year.
Prescription drugs have reached worldwide sales of $300 billion. And nervous system drugs, such as Valium, Dalmane, Serax, and anti-depressants like Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Serazone and Zoloft - to name a few - have reached upwards of $17 billion in sales.
Prozac alone, the world's best-selling anti-depressant, reported sales of more than $2 billion, with more than 24 million users in 1997.
Regarding the huge increase in the prescribing of Ritalin, Health Canada is reportedly currently conducting a national survey of doctors to determine whether attention deficit disorder is being properly diagnosed. But the government agency is virtually powerless to restrict doctors from prescribing
Ritalin, since it is a "practice of medicine issue", and it's up to the doctors to be monitored by their provincial organization - the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Trish Cheverie said it's fairly common for her to see youths addicted to prescription medication in the course of her work as a Legal Aid lawyer in Summerside.
"I see them in youth court every day," she said. "I see quite a few young people addicted to Ritalin and they very often develop other addictions. Even many teachers believe that if children are a little over active, they should be on Ritalin."
She sees part of the solutions would be for people to be able to look after themselves without relying on a pill for everything. She added people seem to have forgotten how to deal with life's ups and downs.
"Ten years ago, I don't think the drugs were as dangerous as they are now and it may have taken people longer to get addicted."
As far as sleeping pills and tranquilizers, Cheverie sees a real problem as far as treatment options for people.
Research shows that it takes one month of therapy for every year of addiction but few, if any, centres in the country provide that type of care.
Lynn Chaplin, communication officer at the Correction Canada's Atlantic regional headquarters in Moncton, N.B., said 70 per cent of offenders that come into the federal correctional system have an issue with substance abuse - either drugs, alcohol and/or both and need some form of treatment.
"It's our number one problem area."
Joan Gadsby, author of Addiction by Prescription, says many institutions also medicate in order to keep the more aggressive inmates under control. However, research in this area shows people on benzodiazepine become even more violent.
"During the past decade and with greater frequency, there has been an alarming increase in murder/suicides, suicides, domestic violence, bizarre mass killings, mothers (parents) killing children, road and air rage, school shootings and workplace violence in North America, where documented evidence has shown the involvement of Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, SSRI/anti-depressant drugs and/or other mind-altering drugs."
Information provided by Gadsby also states that one million children in the United States were reportedly taking anti-depressants in 1999 - inculding mint-flavoured Prozac.
Joan Gadsby's Main Page · Joan Gadsby's Prescription Addiction Website
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