Underneath the idyllic exteriors of Carbonear and the surrounding communities in Conception Bay North, there are people living with serious drug addiction issues, according to local recovering addicts and the people who work with them.

Andrea, the mother of a teenager who is battling an addiction to painkillers, said hard drugs are available near the local schools.

"The drug dealers go in there and wait for the kids to come out on recess and lunch and they can buy whatever they want. The pills and the coke, everything."

Andrea said her neighbours, who have younger children, have run into signs of illegal drug use.

'Opiates are the drug of choice in this area.' - Renee, recovering drug addict in Conception Bay North

"There's a local sliding area, they had their small children out sliding," Andrea said of her neighbours.

"When they looked at the bottom of the hill, there were dirty syringes and needles in the children's sliding area."

"I find that opiates are the drug of choice in this area, definitely," said Renee, a woman in her early 20s who is recovering from several years addicted to cocaine and opiates.

"It breaks my heart to think that IV use has become such a big thing out here. Because once you get into that, your chances of getting out of it are so much lower."

Addicts have access to stronger drugs

Jeff Bourne, the executive director of U-Turn Addictions Drop-In Centre, is quick to point out that Conception Bay North is no different from any other part of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Jeff Bourne

Jeff Bourne says hard drugs are now commonplace in rural communities. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Bourne said two or three decades ago, alcohol and marijuana were the strongest and most available drugs in rural Newfoundland.  

But today, Bourne said addicts in every nook and cranny of the province have access to much stronger drugs in every nook and cranny of the province to satisfy their cravings.  

"You could pretty much Google it and find a recipe to make crystal meth." - Jeff Bourne, U-Turn Drop-In Centre

Bourne added that the internet provides a handy source of reference for addicts looking for the strongest fix they can find.

"I was probably about 27 when I was in Ontario — that was the first time I saw anybody smoke crack cocaine," Bourne pointed out.  

"But I'm sure now if you Google it you could find it right away," he said. 

"You can pretty much Google it and find a recipe to make crystal meth."

Boredom, work demands

Andrea said a lack of activities and boredom, the age-old problems of teenagers in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, can lead some young people into trouble.

She said her son was introduced to drugs at a house party. He was given a marijuana joint that was laced with cocaine when he was 14 years old. Andrea said he then quickly moved to prescription painkillers.

"Anything that he could crush and sniff went up his nose."

Which in turn, said Andrea, led to crime.

"In four years, my son racked up 18 criminal convictions, two federal and 16 provincial, to support his habit."

Andrea noted that cocaine and opiates have been popular with local workers who commute to oil and resources jobs in Alberta and the north.

Those drugs, unlike marijuana, flush out of user's systems within a couple of days, which makes it easier for workers to pass on-site drug tests.

"There's a lot of people's husband and wives who go up just pot smokers, and who come back full-on chemical addicts."

More treatment options needed

Jeff Bourne, Andrea and Renee agreed that hard drugs will always be available from now on in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Whether through prescriptions, buying from drug dealers, crime, or ordering over the internet, addicts will always find a way to get what they need, they each said. 

Adult Addictions Treatment Centre, Harbour Grace

This Adult Addictions Treatment Centre in Harbour Grace is slated to open later this winter. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Bourne said he hopes the Adult Addictions Treatment Centre in Harbour Grace, when opened, will help get more people clean.

He said many more counselling options and mental health support services will be needed to help people stay clean in the long term.

"It's everywhere. Wherever there's people, there's addiction issues."

Some names have been changed to protect privacy.