More law enforcement has not stemmed the drug supply in Vancouver where teens can score most illegal substances in a matter of 10 minutes, a new study shows.
The study conducted by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that heroin, crack, cocaine, crystal meth and marijuana are easily and quickly accessible to users in Vancouver, despite decades of law enforcement aimed at suppressing their supply.
The story’s the same in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Sgt. Daryl Creighton, who heads Ridge Meadows RCMP drug squad, said teens in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have easy access to illegal drugs as those in Vancouver.
“It’s true that illegal drugs are accessible in our community, providing you know the right connections,” he added.
“The illegal drug trade is a community problem, not just a policing one.
“Police utilize intervention, prevention, and enforcement regarding the sale and use of drugs.”
Darryl Lucas, of Alouette Addictions, said teens in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are telling his counsellors that they can get “any drug in minutes.
“Surprisingly, alcohol is tougher to get,” he added.
Lucas believes in the “four-pillars” approach to drug problems that places an equal emphasis on enforcement, treatment, prevention and harm reduction.
“When you concentrate too much money on one prong, the others get left behind,” he said. “So a multi-pronged approach is the best way to go that includes enforcement, that includes prevention and treatment.”
The study’s conclusions were “concerning” for Dr. Scott Hadland, MD, lead author of the study and now chief resident in pediatrics at Harvard University-affiliated Children’s Hospital in Boston.
“Young users are incredibly vulnerable to drug use.
“It interferes with normal development, education, employment and integration into society and puts them at risk of transmission to diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.”
The study, released last week, surveyed two groups in 2007. Among the 330 youth aged 14-26 involved in the study, nearly 63 per cent reported accessing crystal methamphetamine in as little as 10 minutes, compared to 39 per cent of adult users. Young drug users also reported easier access to marijuana, with 88 per cent saying they could obtain the drug within 10 minutes, versus 73 per cent of adults.
“Some would say this is a question we already knew the answer to,” said Dr. Hadland. “But it is really important from a policy standpoint to have good scientific evidence. If we are to have any impact or change policy, we need to have carefully conducted research to support our cause.”
The results, published in the American Journal on Addictions, are consistent with other global studies that find a growing worldwide drug market despite increased enforcement.
To Hadland, the results show that although law enforcement has a role, money would be better spent on public health and drug prevention.
“Much of the emphasis of our funding in Canada has been on law enforcement strategy often to the detriment of evidence-based prevention and treatment approaches that we know can work.”