As you’ve probably heard, the funding for two residential drug treatment centres for youth was announced Tuesday – a 15-bed facility for English-speaking kids, and a 5-bed facility for French-speaking kids.
Better than nothing, I suppose. But I predict the effects will be negligible. Most of the addicts I see would not qualify for treatment at either of these facilities, because they’re not kids. If you’re over 17, it seems we’ve already given up on you.
Add to that the fact that lots of addicts in the early years of their addiction have no desire to quit. They still like their drugs. They like their friends on the street, the community, the sense of belonging. They’re still happy with the lifestyle. They’re not seeking treatment for their addiction because they don’t want to give it up. In many cases, it’s making them happier than they’ve ever been before.
In most cases, they won’t be ready to quit till they’re too old to qualify for treatment in Ottawa.
So I don’t understand why there has been such a narrow focus on getting a facility to treat youth, while providing no options for the more typical addict.
Mayor Larry’s pretty pleased with himself too for allocating $250,000 a year of our tax dollars to prevention. This so-called prevention strategy is also disappointing. Mayor Larry sees that money being used to educate schoolchildren on the dangers of drugs. I agree with Dan Gardner’s assessment (Ottawa Citizen, May 31 2008):
As for prevention, well, that’s a terrific idea. Except that real prevention means dealing with the social decay — broken families, mental illness, illiteracy — that promotes drug abuse. This government seems to think prevention means running television commercials as vapid and worthless as the Reagan-era “this is your brain on drugs” ad that is the classic of the genre.
This is absolutely key, in my opinion. Real prevention means ensuring that kids grow up with their physical, emotional, material, recreational and social needs being met. It means creating healthy neighbourhoods, tackling the social conditions that cause alienation and depression and boredom, and making sure that kids have legitimate alternatives to drugs, like free recreation, part-time jobs, and adults who have time for them.
I know Mayor Larry and the Police Chief are basking in the glow of what feels like success right now. But I think they got it wrong again, and Ottawa’s addict community will continue to grow.