Students of Southern Okanagan Secondary School have hopefully been scared straight by the Odd Squad.
The Odd Squad is a group of emergency responders who work in the underbelly of society, dealing with drugs and gangs.
When VPD officer David Steverding isn’t touring with the Squad, he spends most of his days in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where approximately half of the 18,000 residents are hooked on drugs.
He gruesomely detailed how horribly lives can get ruined because of severe addiction. Students were told they could close their eyes if the content was too disturbing, and encouraged to talk about their feelings afterward.
In his own experience, Steverding knew an NHL prospect with vast opportunities, who partied too hard and ended up severely addicted to drugs.
“The chances of achieving much after addiction is low,” he said.
He showed students a video of a woman named Heather who was having a bad time on drugs, flopping around in a very undignified manner. Then he told the students that Heather is now dead.
He said addicts deserve compassion “but we don’t have to approve of their behaviour.”
Students were told not to think about drug use as “legal versus illegal, rather think of the effect it has on the body.”
Even marijuana has dangerous effects, he said. However, only a dozen or so teenagers raised a hand when asked if they think of marijuana as particularly dangerous. Then they were shown a video of another belligerent woman flipping out and going berserk on public transit – and apparently she is only addicted to weed.
Steverding didn’t have anything nice to say about vaping either.
The youngsters were also told to be wary of Xanax, which is a popular downer. And they were warned about mystery chemicals getting pressed into Xanax-shaped pills.
At the top of the potency totem pole is fentanyl.
It only takes a very tiny amount to cause an overdose, and when dealers are mixing and cutting their product like amateurs, some users will end up with weak bags of dope, while others might be given a lethal dose.
Unfortunately, Steverding said, there’s a lot of money to be made in selling fentanyl. Apparently some dealers use food colouring to make their smack seem more potent.
And since prohibition encourages smugglers to ship smaller, more potent products – it is less economical for the black market to sell safer drugs.
When it comes to doing drugs by accident, Steverding spoke about GHB (the date rape drug). Teenagers were told some common sense: don’t let friends wander off with a stranger if the friend was possibly drugged.
He said one cap full of GHB is enough to make him fall over and collapse.
When it comes to party drugs, Steverding spoke mostly about ecstasy (more commonly referred to as MDMA or Molly nowadays). He said there are many different variations of the drug, and while raving, drugs get passed around so much that it can be hard to know what it is or where it came from.
Steverding didn’t have anything bad to say about psychedelic drugs, aside from throwing a picture of magic mushrooms up on the slideshow.
He talked about the nastiness that comes from the “absolute desperation” of drug addiction, like how users often hide drugs up their butts.
“Think about how it gets up there without gloves.”
Dealers, when anticipating an arrest, will swallow their drugs and then poop them out after they’ve been released – and then sell them.
All of a person’s relationships will come second to severe addiction, he warned.
“The only thing that will be important to you is a means of getting high.”
Most people working in the sex trade, including men, are doing so to feed their addiction, he said. There was video of users’ arms, and anywhere veins are accessible, scarred and bruised by people using needles.
By developing a severe addiction, “You’ll deal with cops a lot more.”
And despite the horrors of illicit drugs, students were informed that tobacco is by far the deadliest drug in Canada. In second place is alcohol. Illicit drugs only account for a sliver of drug deaths in Canada.
Furthermore, drugs still cause issues among users who are not addicted, and Steverding blames alcohol for the majority of fist fights.
Whether nature or nurture is more responsible for each individual addiction, no one knows, he said. But the takeaway message was for friends to take care of each other.
“Over the next few years you’re going to see your friends do some really stupid things. Be a good friend.”