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The crystal meth problem in New Brunswick is real. There is help.

CrystalMethBlog1 - Annie

Annie Claveau, Manager, Addictions and Mental Health Services, Moncton area

Because of its addictive qualities and the often severe and sometimes irreversible damage it has on the health of its users, crystal meth is one of the most dangerous illicit drugs on the market. 

Across our programs, we are seeing an increase in the number of individuals using crystal meth. We are experiencing an increase of 20 per cent in the detox centre along with an upward trend in all of our addictions outpatient services. 

The problem is real. Every day, we see individuals experiencing the effects of this powerful stimulant.  People often use it because of its euphoric properties; when it's used, it produces an intense high. It triggers a flood of Dopamine to parts of the brain that regulate feelings and pleasure. The urge to get that rush again is so intense that individuals would do anything to get that same high.

Depending on the route (pill form, inhaled through the nose, injected with a needle or smoked), the high can last up to 12 hours. Drug tolerance builds quickly, therefore users need a higher dose each successive time and this brings higher risks of harm that can lead to severe health problems.

Crystal meth is inexpensive to buy and sell and is often associated with other criminal activity. The drug is manufactured illegally and can be taken in different forms, therefore, buyers don't always know what they are taking.

We see more and more individuals showing up at our doors and sometimes in a very desperate state.  Because we want to do everything we can to help, we reach out to where they are and assist them in getting some stability in their difficult situation.  

One heartbreaking situation is that of a young mother who arrived in a psychotic state and became physically ill but was too disorganised to engage and try to improve her situation. At one time, she was well-functioning, but because of her addiction, she lost her kids, her family and is now homeless working on the streets, prostituting. The determination of my team members to try to get this woman the support and the care that she needs is what keeps me passionate about my job.   

Another situation in recent months concerns a client who left the premises on his bicycle and crossed the street without looking. He was unaware of his surroundings, disorganized, and unable to communicate.  RCMP later found him without clothes in a nearby dumpster. It can be disheartening to see this. 

The thing about crystal meth users that worries me the most is this extreme loss of control of the emotions and behaviors. We see a lot of verbal aggression, unpredictable and violent behaviors. Some of our long-term clients we've seen for many years. When they start using crystal meth, we see some very unusual behaviors, and changes and fluctuations in their mood.  Symptoms of psychosis are becoming more and more common.

The long-term effects can have devastating effects on all body systems. When used over a long period, the risk of developing psychosis and psychotic symptoms is very high. This is where violent behaviors, psychosis, paranoia, and other cognitive impairments come in and can lead to brain damage. Those long-term effects can be challenging for health care professionals to treat.

It would be an easy solution if everyone could stay away from crystal meth, and say, "No, I'm not getting on that ride.''  Unfortunately, that is not the reality. Understanding the risks associated with the use of crystal meth can be helpful. For individuals that are affected by the harmful effects of addiction, it is possible to get help and for individuals to move forward in their journey towards recovery.

The key to defeat addiction is to start by seeking help. Reach out for support, engage in treatment and access resources. Addiction services has programs and health care professionals ready to help. Our programs offer a variety of treatment options for addiction use disorders.

Options are the detox centre for safe withdrawal management, outpatient addictions and mental health services, which can include individual counseling and group therapy. The opioid replacement treatment program, for opioid use disorders and for individuals experiencing mental health crisis, the mobile crisis mental health intervention team are all accessible resources in our community.    

For more information on crystal meth and where to get help in New Brunswick, click here.

Annie Claveau is Horizon's manager for Addictions and Mental Health Services in the Moncton region. She's worked as a registered nurse for 26 years, and a manager with Addictions and Mental Health Services for 15 years.

Annie is responsible for the Opioid Replacement Treatment program (ORT), the alcohol clinic and the addictions and mental health prevention program. She is also the regional coordinator for the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team, which offers support/debriefings to first responders.

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