Draft Substance Abuse Strategy unveiled

By David F. Rooney

Months of hard work and research are coming to fruition with a Draft Substance Abuse Strategy that “definitely looks at the whole picture,” says Social Development Coordinator Jill Zacharias.

“Drugs and alcohol today are different than when we grew up,” she said in an interview.

Not only is there a wider and more powerful spectrum of drugs available on the street, including methamphetamines which have a very real covert presence as additives to substances like ecstasy, but the alcohol-based choices being offered have changed, too.

“We now have alcohol-based drinks being marketed as soft drinks,” Zacharias said

The draft strategy examines the effects of a wide range of legal substances such as alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks, to illegal substances such as marijuana and ecstasy.

“Alcohol, without exception, is the substance that poses the greatest risk of harm for people in Revelstoke,” the draft strategy says. “Furthermore service providers identify many barriers to effective prevention, treatment and enforcement activities in Revelstoke with overwhelming consensus on the top three barriers: parental support of underage alcohol use, the perception that substance use is a personal problem, not a community problem, and acceptance of recreational drug and alcohol use.”

The focus of this document is problem substance use. It is about ensuring that community attitudes and norms endorse a culture of health promotion, safety and responsible decision-making.

That particularly important for teens and young adults who may think they’re ready for the challenges of making making real-world decision even though they have very limited life experience on which to base their decisions.

“You may think it’s okay for for kids to experiment, but kids still need boundaries,” she said.

One of the real keys to effectively fighting substance abuse is building better lines of communication within families.

“The family environment and family relationships are among the most important ones you have,” she said. “They need to be nurtured.”

And if they are nurtured and youths are engaged in the community around them they, and Revelstoke, will benefit.

“Substances have been around for a gazillion years but our focus is on making Revelstoke a better place to live and grow,” Zacharias said.

She is seeking public comment on the document. To read the full Revelstoke Community Substance Use Strategy in PDF-format, please go here. Options for providing input include:

1) Send comments to jill.zacharias@telus.net (please cite page numbers), or
2) Come to the public presentation on Tuesday, June 15 at 7 pm at the Community Centre

The deadline for public input is Thursday June 17.

While the struggle to control drug and alcohol abuse in Revelstoke will be immensely aided by development and approval of the draft strategy it may also be hampered by the imminent departure of Lori Borges, the long-time addictions counsellor at Revelstoke Secondary School.

Borges’ position has been funded by Interior Health which as decided to cancel it. Borges is leaving at the end of this school year to Vernon where she will be an addictions counsellor.

“The School District has learning outcomes for kids in K-10… what Lori did was really add to that,” Zacharias said, calling Borges “an invaluable resource” whose ability to promote substance control among teens was due in no small part to the trust given to her by local teens and her ability communicate with them.