Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

August 31, 2015

No matter how many times I read it, the words stayed the same. "The music was good. The band really rocked."

Thankfully, part of my brain was still unpolluted, and I knew something was dreadfully wrong.

The time was years ago. I was an entertainment writer working in another city.

The concert I was assigned to review was fabulous. But there I sat, an hour after the band's final set, too stunned to write.

It was only when the pungent smell of my scarf hit my consciousness that I realized what was wrong. I was stoned.

Sure, I saw marijuana joints being passed around me at the concert. What I did not realize was that, given their proximity, I was inhaling the joints' mind-altering fumes.

Until then, I always had a laissez-faire attitude to pot. Others could do it, and I did not judge. But that brush with being over-powered by weed let me know it was not for me.

Years later I was sitting in a university psychology class. The prof came in and was visibly upset. Instead of the expected lecture, he gave us a glimpse of his own humanity when he threw slides up on the screen.

The prof's words were blunt. He had come from a colleague's daughter's funeral that afternoon. She was only 16 and died after huffing (inhaling) nitrous oxide fumes. She had not been an addict - just a first timer.

Other slides showed the various pills, drugs and their innocuous names. Sippy, simple Simon, ice, blue kisses, superman.

The medical and graphic slides also showed the impact various drugs had on the brain. Parts of those precious lobes were wiped out forever.

The bottom line of the prof's emotion-packed presentation was, "Do it and it can happen to you."

Drug addiction among today's youth crosses all socio-economic boundaries - rich or poor, single parent or two parents, city or country.

The temptation is always there.

Two media fathers took their own personal stories to the television screen to tell how street drugs impacted their children.

Gemini Award winning sportscaster Scott Oake and his wife Anne went public about their son Bruce's battle with addiction and wrote in his obituary four years ago, "For the last five years Bruce fought valiantly against his addiction and sadly the addiction won."

INVINCIBLE TEEN

More recently, Edmonton TV newscasts showed former TV reporter Reg Hampton wiping his unconscious son Anthony's face as he lay in a Calgary hospital bed. The youth is not expected to recover.

In his Facebook posting, Hampton wrote, "How could he think it's okay to take a pill you buy off the street? . . . But when you are 18, you are invincible."

The killer drug of Anthony's brain? Fentanyl.

Two grains the size of grains of salt of this opiate can kill you, said a worried police officer in a television interview.

In the first seven months of this year, Fentanyl has killed 145 Albertans. The total for all of last year was 120.

As Pope Francis cautions, "How many dealers of death there are that follow the logic of money and power at any cost!

"The scourge of drug trafficking that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death requires of society as a whole an act of courage," he told participants last year at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.

"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise."

STREET DRUGS

Certainly, youths toss accusations back about adults' abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs. Yes, they can cause havoc and damage. But they are a known quantity.

Street drugs, however, are whatever the pusher decides to put in their devil's brew. This can be anything and everything from powdered milk to ground drywall. The criteria are that the filler look like the drug being sold and that it boosts the selling price.

Remember, as Pope Francis said, drug pushers have no conscience and are only concerned with profit.

SOURCES OF HELP

Need help? Contacting parents, school counsellors, pastors, physicians - people who you feel safe with and trust - is the usual first step to take. Alberta Health Services offers various aids at 780-422-7383.

If you need to remain anonymous, the Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868. It is open 24 hours a day.

No one or thing has the right to rob a youth of their promise. No one or thing has the right to rob a parent of their child.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)