for selling a product that caused her harm....
Western provinces lead attack on crystal meth
By JIM MACDONALD
EDMONTON (CP) - Crystal meth grabbed Sandy Bergen on the first toke, pulling her into a horror show that left her near death a year later in a hospital emergency room.
"The worst thing about it was that I was addicted the first time I did it," says the 21-year-old Saskatchewan woman who is now suing her meth dealer.
"It drags you down that quick. That's probably the scariest thing."
Canada's battle against crystal methamphetamine is just beginning, but the drug already has a firm foothold on the Prairies.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have all decided to restrict the sale of cold remedies and other drugs that contain its key ingredient - pseudoephedrine.
Pharmacies across the Prairies must now sell these drugs from behind the counter.
British Columbia is monitoring bulk sales of these drugs and is considering retail restrictions, while Yukon pharmacies are voluntarily moving them behind the counter.
The tactic has been highly successful in curbing the supply of crystal meth in the northern United States, where the number of users has spiked in recent years.
"In those states where pseudoephedrine was placed behind the shelves, the meth labs all but disappeared," says Annette Bidniak, spokeswoman for Alberta's solicitor general.
"But new labs have sprouted along the boundaries of states that still allow these cold remedies to be sold off the shelf."
Some political leaders question whether their efforts will make a difference.
"I don't think we'll ever see the end of crystal meth," says Alberta Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko. "Five years from now, there'll probably be another drug that can be manufactured."
The crystal form of methamphetamine first surfaced in North American around 1990 and has grown steadily in popularity in some regions.
It's made by mixing pseudoephedrine with about a dozen other substances, which can include iodine, ammonia, paint thinner, ether, Drano and even lithium from batteries.
The crystals are most often inhaled or smoked.
There's growing evidence that heavy crystal meth use causes permanent brain damage. Addicts often have gaps in their memory and are prone to mood swings.
"Eventually you will die," says Bergen. "I had heart failure, lung failure, kidney failure and liver failure," she said in an interview. "I was given a less than 10 per cent chance of living."
Crystal meth is a relatively cheap drug made in hundreds of illegal labs that have sprouted to meet demand. Police say an investment of about $150 can yield up to $10,000 worth of crystal meth.
"It's a scourge on our kids," says Premier Ralph Klein, who recently appointed his wife, Colleen, to lead an Alberta task force against the drug.
"You can't legislate against ignorance," Klein said in a year-end interview. "But you can do certain things to make it more difficult to produce this stuff."
Addiction centres report a relapse rate higher than 90 per cent, and withdrawal symptoms are said to be worse than heroin or cocaine.
"The triggers and the cravings for the drug are quite high," says Marilyn Mitchell, a youth services director with the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. "It's easy to relapse."
Bergen says her relapse nearly killed her when she got high with her dealer eight months after kicking the drug.
"I went into an 11-day coma and wasn't supposed to live."
Skin ulcers are also common among hard-core crystal meth addicts, who often hallucinate and scratch themselves, worsening the wounds.
"If we didn't do something to stop crystal meth, we could see people at 35 years of age in long-term care because they've blown their brains out," says Alberta Health Minister Iris Evans. "It's that simple."
The western premiers agreed over the summer to devise a joint strategy to battle crystal meth, including education programs, restrictions on the sale of key ingredients and a push for tougher penalties for those who make or sell the drug.
Premier Klein grimaced as he talked about seeing before-after pictures of a young woman who died at 32 after using crystal meth for four years.
"She aged 50 years in those four that she was a meth addict," he said. "Her face was all scarred and scabby. It was just devastating to look at."
Klein says he wants the fight against crystal meth to be part of his legacy as he prepares to retire from politics in a couple of years.
Rather than having a mountain or a lake named after him, he'd rather be known as the premier who took on crystal meth - even if he doesn't win.
Bergen says people should start by publicly identifying drug dealers.
"It's the communities that have to get together and do stuff about these people," she said. "Start naming names and run these people out of town."
I have a cousin that is a tweaker, I think they are all beyone help.... I do find it funny that she is suing her dealer though.... now I guess they will have to market a safer product, seeing as how in an Radio Interview she called him a "Professional" so he should be help to those standards
Someone should turn her dealer in to the Better Dealer Business Bureau, IMO.
Hey, if you can sue mcdonalds for spilling hot coffee on yourself, making you fat.....why not? Sounds perfectly legit to me
Maybe next time.
In all seriousness, while I treat everyone the same way regardless of who they are, I can't say it breaks my heart when a frequent flyer chronic drug addict bites it in the ICU.