Alberta crystal meth report calls for better treatment

Alberta should create hundreds of new beds to help crystal meth addicts, says a premier's task force report released Tuesday.

Alberta should create hundreds of new beds to help crystal meth addicts, says a premier's task force report released Tuesday with a lengthy list of recommendations.

Among 83 suggestions bythe task force headed by Premier Ralph Klein's wife, Colleen, is a call for 100 new detoxification beds across the province and 200 new treatment beds.

"Crystal meth is a reality in this province and the damage that it is doing to young Albertans, in all Alberta communities, needs to stop," Colleen Klein saidat the release of the report in Edmonton.

Members of the premier's task force toured the province for months, aiming to come up with an action plan to help the province deal with the effects of the highly addictive drug.

"It is going to be expensive, however, we didn't feel it was our responsibility to be setting budgets for the various ministries," said Klein.

Cheap and potent drug

"While meth use remains relatively low in the general population, it is increasing most notably among street-involved youth, specific groups within the gay community and young adults in the party scene," according to the report.

Youth that spoke to the task force members about using the drug "spoke about how they used meth to get away from family, to lose weight, to experience a new high, because it was there, because it was cheap and because the high was so great and immediate," reads the report.

Jessica Claridge, a former meth addict who has been clean for about two years, told CBC News that the public and government officials need to immediately pay attention to the problem.

"Crystal meth is that big because it's easy to make, it's cheap and it's potent," she said.

"You can't go out on the street and find crack like that. It's not that easy."

Drayton Valley Mayor Diana McQueen, who sat on the task force, said the recommendations, if followed, could make a real difference.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is a great legacy that [Colleen Klein] and the premier will be leaving," she said.

Among the recommendations:

  • Creating a provincial fund for meth programs.
  • Better access to addictions counsellors in junior and senior high schools.
  • A provincial marketing campaign to discourage use of the drug.
  • Creating residential treatment programs for young adults.
  • A 50 per cent increase in the number of after-care facilities.
  • Yanking licences of businesses that sell drug paraphernalia.
  • Working with the federal government to help aboriginal addicts.
  • Educating farmers on securely storing chemicals used to make meth.

The report also calls on the federal government to toughen its approach to the drug, such as making "child drug endangerment" a Criminal Code offence.

Manufacturing, possession, trafficking and use of crystal meth or any other dangerous drug should be a "serious violent offence that warrants incarceration before trial and upon conviction for each and every charge."

The report also notes that more drug producers are adding meth to other drugs because it is inexpensive and makes those drugs more addictive.

Alberta police estimate that between 70 and 75 per cent of ecstasy sold on the street contains meth.