WOODSTOCK -- An RCMP drug enforcement officer for Prince County told a group of parents recently that prescription drugs are the drug of choice across P.E.I.
Corporal Andy Cook, RCMP drug enforcement officer in Prince County, chats with pharmacists Amanda Shea, center, and Naomi Campbell following their panel presentation on the dangers in prescription drug abuse.
“Seventy-five per cent of my work in Prince County has to do with prescription drugs,” Corporal Andy Cook told a drug information meeting for parents, organized by West Prince Catholic Women’s Leagues.
Most of those drugs start out as legal prescriptions, Cook said. Sometimes, though, it is a matter of “professional liars” obtaining prescriptions for ailments that don’t really exist, or patients who sell part of their prescriptions. Some drugs are stolen from medicine cabinets. Cook said criminals have even been known to break into homes of people who have died while their funerals are going on to steal their cancer drugs.
A panel, that also included two local pharmacists, Amanda Shea and Naomi Campbell, shared their concerns of prescription drug abuse - taking drugs that were not prescribed, or in different dosages or combinations. A video on prescription drug abuse on P.E.I. was also shown.
When abused, Campbell advised, prescription drugs are as dangerous as street drugs. They are also highly addictive and users can develop a physical dependence which makes it difficult to stop using.
That dependency, Cook said, leads to all sorts of criminal activity including shoplifting and robberies to support the addiction.
“It physically takes hold of you,” Cook said in describing abusers’ need for their drug. “I
’ve seen some of these people coming down off of this and it is pitiful; it’s a horrible thing to see. They’ve seen it, too, and they don’t want to be like that, so they will do whatever they have to.”
He told of organized shoplifting groups in Summerside and Charlottetown.
“I’ve seen it on text messages that we’ve seized from drug traffickers, people taking orders as to what everybody wants when they go ‘shopping,’as they call it in the text messages. They go out and they steal these things, then they sell them to their drug dealer so they can get some beads or percs (percocets), or whatever it happens to be that day.”
The pharmacists and RCMP officer spoke to junior and senior high school students in West Prince earlier in the day. Cook said the message he tries to impress on youth is they don’t know what they’re getting.
“Do you think there
’s any quality control in an illegal drug lab? I can tell you, there’s not, because I’ve investigated many of them.”
He said 12 people died in Alberta and British Columbia last year after taking what they thought was ecstasy. It was really a drug called PMMA.
Because it seems slow-acting, a seasoned ecstasy user might think he bought a low dose and pop a couple more pills, he suggested. “But it drives your body temperature up. Basically, it cooks your brain,” he said. “PMMA: A real bad drug.”
The pharmacists advised parents to encourage their children to focus on what’s important in their lives, like friends, family, sports, as a means of resisting peer pressure to try drugs, and they pointed to some signs hat might indicate their son or daughter is using, like changes in their social circle and neglecting long-time friends, exhibiting changes in behaviour upon receiving calls or text messages, changes in academic performance, changes in behaviour such as becoming secretive or prone to outbursts.
Cook discussed trafficking and said it can include giving, mailing transporting and administering drugs. He said there is a two-year minimum penalty now being imposed for trafficking in or around schools or places where people under the age of 18 are likely to gather.
Other consequences of trafficking convictions, he advised, include not being permitted to cross the border or take southern vacations, and difficulty finding employment.