Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
Cocaine use on the rise among Halton teenagers
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 1 Mar 2006, p. 3, 1

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Cocaine and crack cocaine use among local youth is on the rise. That's one of the findings of a recently-conducted provincial survey on student drug use, and a fact that was validated by professionals who work with youths in Halton. A report presented to the health and social services committee last week from Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bob Nosal notes that in western Ontario-- which includes Halton-- cocaine use amongst students has gone from 3.6 per cent in 1999 to 6.2 per cent in 2005, which is the highest prevalence compared to other areas surveyed in the province. Nosal also reported that an informal scan conducted by public health nurses last month through consulting professionals like school staff, police and youth workers validated that cocaine and crack use has increased among Halton youth. Public health nurse Lorraine Gold filled the committee in on other details of the provincial survey. "Since 1993, cocaine use has been steadily increasing for both males and females," she said. She noted that the most striking jump is seen in Grade 11 students, going from a 2.5 per cent usage rate in 1993 to 7.2 per cent last year. Gold also said that about 1,600 Halton students used cocaine at least once last year. Other statistics presented on local drug use include: · 62 per cent, or about 22,000 Halton students, reported using alcohol during the 12-month period before the survey · 22.5 per cent, or approximately 8,000 local pupils, said they'd been drunk at least once during the four weeks prior to the survey · While tobacco use is down, one in seven students said they still smoke, which represents about 5,100 students in the region · About 9,400 area students, or 26.5 per cent, reported using cannabis In addition, the health nurses' informal scan revealed local professionals who work with youth feel cannabis use is widespread, tobacco use has declined and most teens seeking treatment services for their substance use are using cannabis, alcohol or crack/cocaine. Along with the information presented by Region staff, the committee also heard about drug use amongst the Peer Outreach Support Services and Education (POSSE) Project's clients. Representatives from POSSE-- which describes itself as a harm reduction and human rights project run by youth for youth in north Halton-- said that of the 254 client contacts the group made between April 2005 and January 2006, 215 of those individuals used drugs. Of those, 76 per cent used alcohol, 70 per cent, tobacco, 65 per cent, marijuana, 31.5 per cent, mushrooms, 29.5 per cent, cocaine, 20.9 per cent, crack, 18.5 per cent, ecstasy and 11.8 per cent heroine/opiates. Halton Hills Councillor Clark Somerville questioned where youths are getting the money to buy drugs. "It's not a cheap habit," he noted. Public health nurse Mary Tabak told him that youths have a variety of money sources, such as employment. She pointed out that Halton is also an affluent community. Oakville Councillor Jeff Knoll asked Nosal about the health effects of marijuana. Nosal said that with heavy use, a person would develop a dependence on it and also see impacts on the brain, such as with thought and memory. "There is more tar and cancercausing chemicals in marijuana than in tobacco," he noted. The committee supported having staff explore options to ensure the availability of data that reflects the health and social status of school-aged children and youth in Halton. The Region's public health staff is currently involved in implementing a variety of initiatives to enhance the healthy development of youth across Halton. This includes working with and supporting youth directly, supporting youths' parents or caregivers and addressing issues within the school environments and community at large.

Hennessey, Melanie
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Date of Publication:
1 Mar 2006
Personal Name(s):
Nosal, Bob ; Somerville, Clark ; Gold, Lorraine ; Tabak, Mary ; Knoll, Jeff
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Peer Outreach Support Services and Education ; POSSE
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Cocaine use on the rise among Halton teenagers