Monday, January 27, 2014


Bieber's troubles strike note with parents

by The Canadian Press - Story: 107407
Jan 24, 2014 / 9:25 pm

Gordon Hay, Executive Director of Venture Academy sent us this piece following his reading of Candace Plattor's article on our blog the other day.

Media outlets around the world have been captivated by Canadian pop star Justin Bieber's latest tussle with the law, but a much wider audience finds itself engrossed by the singer's struggles with himself.
Bieber's increasingly erratic public behaviour, escalating bouts of temper and brazen use of both legal and illegal substances are an all-too familiar narrative for parents who have watched their own teenaged offspring travel down the same treacherous path.
Parents say the issues at the core of most celebrity struggles can resonate in even the most everyday circumstances.
Hollie Pollard watches Bieber's travails with a mixture of sadness and empathy. The pop star's public struggles remind her forcibly of the years she spent trying to bring her 16-year-old daughter back from the brink of a crippling mental health crisis.
Her child never touched the substances or mixed with the stars that have figured in Bieber's story. But her personality disorder and uncontrollable anger caused turmoil all the same.
"I feel for them and I feel for their parents," Pollard said in a telephone interview from Toronto. "We recognize the challenges for that person, and we recognize that the likelihood of getting help is pretty slim unless somebody steps in."
For many troubled teens, the only ones on hand to offer the necessary support are the parents themselves, Pollard said.
Dr. Marshall Korenblum, Chief Psychiatrist at Toronto's Hincks-Dellcrest Centre for Children and Families, said rebellion is a normal part of growing up for teenagers of all walks of life.
A healthy skepticism towards rules and authority, he said, helps teens establish their own identity and ought to be nurtured within reason.
Gordon Hay, executive director of teen treatment facility Venture Academy, said he's seen a rise in such dangerous behaviour in the 13 years since the residential program has been open.
The antics of youthful celebrities such as Bieber or Britney Spears, he said, have gone a long way towards skewing perceptions of what's acceptable behaviour.
Substance abuse and self-harm in particular, he said, have increased markedly since the school's inception. Fully half of all applicants report cutting themselves now compared to just one or two applicants a year when the program launched, he said.
"Those types of behaviours are almost moving towards being acceptable," he said. "It seems like the message often is that some of those behaviours are being classified as normal. Just because they are on the increase, for example suicidal thoughts, self-harm . . . does not negate the seriousness of that behaviour."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

CANDACE PLATTOR In the Vancouver Observer

Justin Bieber's sad enablers

Most of us knew it was only a matter of time.

Not only were we hearing story after story about Justin’s “antics”—a media description that only served to minimize the severity of his actions—but those very actions were becoming more and more bizarre. Before today’s arrest for driving under the influence and resisting arrest, he was pitching raw eggs at his neighbor’s house causing thousands of dollars worth of damage—not to mention a sizable stash of illegal drugs that were found in his home.

Do we have to wonder how this happened—or is it finally becoming clear that  enabling addicts only keeps the addiction going? How many more examples, public or private, do we need?

When we have addicted loved ones in our lives, we also have a choice to make—will we let them get away with really bad (and sometimes downright dangerous) behavior, or will we step in and make the boundaries clear? Do we care enough about the addicts we love to hold them accountable, or do we continue to be people-pleasers and yes-men, making excuses and turning our eyes away from what is really going on?

Whose denial causes the most damage—the addict’s or the enabler’s?

When loved ones enable, they are actually meeting their own needs, not the needs of the addict. People struggling with addiction may want to continue to be enabled—but what they actually need is for someone to love them enough to say, “That’s it, no more.” When loved ones enable, they are not acting in loving ways toward the addict.

People enable for all kinds of reasons—but the most common is that they fear any form of conflict so they dare not say “No” and risk the fallout that might ensue. This constitutes meeting their own needs, not the needs of their addicted loved ones.

And in Justin’s case—didn’t his entourage learn anything from what happened to Michael Jackson? MJ died as a direct result of enabling, as a direct result of people saying yes to him when no was the right answer all along. And of course, when money is involved, it’s often a game-changer. MJ’s people wouldn’t say no to him until it was too late—they didn’t seem to care enough to risk the anger and the fallout.

It seems that this is what’s happened with Justin too except—thankfully—no one has been physically hurt or killed as a result of allowing him to have far too much money and power—at least, not yet.
How could it happen that not one person in Justin’s entourage stepped in to stop his immature and irresponsible father from setting up a drag race at 4 o’clock in the morning, when Justin was clearly under the influence of mind-altering substances? Really, what is wrong with these people, how can they face themselves?

I’m not saying that Justin doesn’t have any responsibility here—of course he does. But unlike the ridiculous Rob Ford, Justin is still a youth at only 19. Even though I am definitely way past my teen years, I can still remember what I was like at 19—many of us can recall those days. Did I make positive, healthy choices for myself then? Not often—and I wouldn’t expect Justin to do so either, especially with far too much inappropriate influence and clout and not enough truly caring people around him.
Enabling keeps addictive behaviors going. Enabling feeds the needs of the people who enable, not the needs of the people who are behaving badly.

What if we all decided to grow a backbone and started speaking our truth to the addicts in our lives, to set healthy and appropriate boundaries with them, to love them enough to risk our own discomfort when they became angry with us? What if we respected ourselves enough to do the right thing and raise the accountability bar in those relationships?

Something magical just might happen.

Justin, my deep hope for you is that someone loves you enough to tell you the truth, despite the consequences that could occur. I know that Michael Jackson is someone you choose to emulate—but my hope for you is that the orange jumpsuit and handcuffs have been enough to wake you up, so that you don’t have to follow him into the grave.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


What Are They Smoking?

Liberals want to ban trans fats and legalize marijuana. Does that make any sense to you?
January 22, 2014

The national debate over marijuana legalization has caught many liberals in a confounding paradox. These liberals, who have fought vociferously for bans on cigarettes, super-sized sodas, trans fats and other unhealthy substances, now either advocate for the legalization of marijuana or stand unopposed to it. This is notable because, whatever else it is, marijuana is not healthy.

In his recent New Yorker interview, President Obama remarked , “I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.” But then he added, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” Of the legalization in Colorado and Washington—never mind the unresolved conflict between state and federal law—he said, “it’s important for it to go forward.

Got that? The same president who signed into law a tough federal anti-cigarette smoking bill in 2009 now supports marijuana legalization.

The inconsistency and self-contradiction is obvious. In the name of public health, liberals wage political war against genetically modified organisms, french fries and tubby kids, yet stand idly by, or worse, support the legalization of a mind-impairing substance known to be addictive and have deleterious effects on the brain.

The very same year, for example, that Colorado legalized marijuana, the Colorado Senate passed (without a single Republican vote) a ban on trans fats in schools. Are we to believe eating a glazed donut is more harmful than smoking a joint? California has already banned trans fats in restaurants statewide, but now is on the brink of legalizing marijuana statewide come November. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to decriminalize marijuana in New York State, while at the same time supporting a ban on extra-large sodas. A 32-ounce Mountain Dew is bad for you, but pot isn’t?

The logic is dumbfounding. For many years, health-conscious liberals have waged a deafening, public war against cigarettes. Smoking bans in public places like restaurants and bars have been enacted in states all over the country.Recently, New York City, New Jersey and several other cities and states have extended those bans to include the newest tobacco fad—e-cigarettes. Yet, when it comes to smoking marijuana? Crickets.

What explains this obvious paradox? Do these liberals think that marijuana is somehow less harmful than a Big Gulp soda or a bucket of fried chicken? It’s hard to believe that’s the case, given the vast amount of social data and medical science on the dangers of marijuana.

William J. Bennett, former secretary of education and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is a fellow of the Claremont Institute and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “Morning in America.”
Christopher Beach is the show’s executive producer.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Even Lady Gaga knows pot is not harmless

By William J. Bennett


Editor's note: William J. Bennett is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.
(CNN) -- President George H.W. Bush appointed me as the nation's first director of national drug control policy -- or "drug czar" -- in 1989. We took on many big fights, the largest of which was the cocaine epidemic spreading from the jungles of Colombia to the streets of the United States. We conducted an all-out assault on drugs through tough enforcement measures and public education. Contrary to "war on drugs" critics, drug use and addiction dropped across the country.
The issue of marijuana legalization was far less prominent than it is today, although even then, some argued that we should experiment with legalization. I told them not on my watch; the cost to society would be too great.
If you don't want to take my word that it can be harmful, perhaps you'll take Lady Gaga's.
In a recent interview, the world-famous pop star admitted she was heavily addicted to marijuana. "I have been addicted to it and it's ultimately related to anxiety coping and it's a form of self-medication and I was smoking up to 15 or 20 marijuana cigarettes a day with no tobacco," she said. "I was living on a totally other psychedelic plane, numbing myself completely."
Lady Gaga said she was speaking out to bust the myth that marijuana is just a harmless plant. "I just want young kids to know that you actually can become addicted to it, and there's this sentiment that you can't and that's actually not true."
Today a fully functioning experiment in legal marijuana for adults is going on in Colorado and another one is set to begin later this year in Washington. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once remarked that in our democratic Republic, the states are the laboratories of democracy. We are running a few labs now and shall see what happens.
But, as with any public debate, we need to hear all sides. So far, the advocates of marijuana legalization have dominated the public arena. It's certainly had an effect. According to a new CNN poll, a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana. But where are the voices of the wounded? Where is the outrage from the families who have been hurt?
We know they are out there. More Americans are admitted to treatment facilities for marijuana use than any other illegal drug.
I've talked to parents all over the country who lost children to drug abuse -- not to marijuana alone; though in many cases it was a gateway drug or part of their deadly drug concoction. People have been deeply hurt by drug related accidents or spent thousands of dollars on drug rehabilitation. We need to hear their voices.
During my tenure as drug czar, I traveled to more than 120 communities to see firsthand the impact of illegal drugs. Among those visits was a trip to Boston to take part in drug busts in some of the city's most broken and dangerous neighborhoods. Not once during that visit did a parent or community leader advocate for legalization or loosening drug restrictions. Rather, they wanted the drugs confiscated and drug dealers locked up. They knew the damage drugs had inflicted on their children and communities.
That same evening Harvard University held a discussion on drugs and law enforcement. There I listened to scores of academics argue for legalizing or decriminalizing drugs.
It's hardly an exercise in intellectual rigor for those in the middle- and upper-class who live in areas with little crime and violence to be willing to experiment with drug legalization. They live far removed from the realities of the drug trade.
But travel to its core, to the slums and projects run by ruthless drug dealers, and these intellectuals may rethink their position.
It's a myth that marijuana, because it is not as harmful as cocaine, heroin or some other illegal hard drugs, is safe or safe enough to warrant legalization.Opponents contest that marijuana hasn't ravaged communities or that the drug itself isn't to blame.
But that's not true. It's ravaged the community of the young.
Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the country, especially among young people. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, "of the 7.3 million persons aged 12 or older classified with illicit drug dependence or abuse in 2012, 4.3 million persons had marijuana dependence or abuse," making marijuana the drug with the largest number of people with dependence or abuse.
The medical community has warned about the danger.
A recent Northwestern University study found that marijuana users have abnormal brain structure and poor memory and that chronic marijuana abuse may lead to brain changes resembling schizophrenia. The study also reported that the younger the person starts using marijuana, the worse the effects become.
In its own report arguing against marijuana legalization, the American Medical Association said: "Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders."
The country can ill-afford a costly experiment with drugs. While we are undergoing a national debate over improving health care costs and education performance, legalizing marijuana will undercut those vital missions.
We will wait and see what Colorado's and Washington's experiments hold, but I expect that after several years, we will see marijuana use rise dramatically, even among adolescents. The states will come to regret their decisions.
As the late, great political scientist James Q. Wilson remarked, "The central problem with legalizing drugs is that it will increase drug consumption" -- and all its inherent harm.


Friday, January 17, 2014


The statement from the International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy on the situation in Colorado is now published in English.  It is posted in the Journal of Global DrugPolicy and on the Task Force web site ( 
You can read the document by going to either of these sites.

We are posting this information because Al Arsenault, Dr. Colin Mangham and nour President, Chuck Doucette are all members of the International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

BOMBS AWAY - The Legalizing Pot Scenario

Normalising pot is priming a public-health time bomb

Since the drive to legalise medical marijuana began in the US in the 1990s, marijuana use doubled and the perception of its harm halved. As Colorado and Washington formally legitimise and sanction its recreational use, these dangerous inverse trends can only continue, Kathy Gyngell warns.

Kathy Gyngell on SkyOn 1 January, to much media fanfare, Colorado became the first state in the US to legalise smoking dope. Since then, our TV screens and newspapers have brought us the less-than-salutary sight of long lines of customers queuing for their ‘soma’, in freezing temperatures to boot, begging the question of whether the denizens of Colorado have nothing better to do with their lives. Out of sight are the financial vultures wheeling to cash in on this hot new market.  Price  - Colorado ran out of pot in the first week – is not putting off its addicted customers.

The ‘medical’ marijuana business was already worth about  $1.4billion dollars last year.  Once pot can be pushed legitimately, once banks decide that investing is this boom is not a moral bridge too far, the sky will be the ceiling on the value of this business.

This is why the recent research finding about teen marihuana use and their perceptions of risk are so worrying.

The 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey (an annual survey of 8th, 10th and 12th-graders by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan) reports that far fewer teenagers in the US today view regular marijuana use as harmful as their counterparts did before the campaign to legalise medical marijuana began in the 1990s. Rising use has been accompanied by diminishing perceptions of harm. Evidence points to this being a direct outcome of legalising marijuana for purported medical use – the political sleight of hand used by 21 states to decriminalise it since 1996.

CannabisIt is no coincidence that marijuana is the only drug in the US whose use is on the rise. This is in contrast to use of ll other illicit drugs which are all in persistent decline, particularly cocaine, the use of which has dropped by 75% in 25 years, as the recent United Nation’s World Drug Reports confirm.

Marijuana alone is on a persistent incline upward – and not just for adults. Its use by high-school seniors has doubled since 1991. Last year, teen use rose again, from 11.4% to 12.7% (8th graders) and from 28% to just under 30% (10th graders). A worrying 36% of high-school seniors used pot in the last year.  One in every 15 of them (6.5%) used it daily.
Fotolia_3851105_DueyWhat this latest survey exposes is the Pandora’s box of medical marijuana. Of the 12th graders sampled by the survey who had used marijuana in the 12 months prior to being questioned and who lived in states that passed such laws, one third of them (34%) said that one of their sources of marijuana was another person's medical marijuana prescription. 6% reported getting it from their own prescription.
The States with medical marijuana laws have failed to prevent its diversion to young people. They have given adolescents another way of obtaining the drug, exposing them to more risk.

The knowledge of this, sadly, did not stop the selfish and dope-loving adult population in Colorado from voting for the drug’s full legalisation. Yet the impact on their teens was clear within two years of medical marijuana being legalised there in 2009. For in just those two years, regular (last month) high school drug use leapt from 19% to 30% and school expulsions rose by a third, marijuana being the first reason for them. Since full legalisation “pot problems” in Colorado’s state schools have reportedly got even worse.

"Kids are smoking before school and during lunch breaks. They come into school reeking of pot," one school resource officer said. "Students don’t seem to realise that there is anything wrong with having the pot – they act like having marijuana was an ordinary thing and no big deal.”

Marijuana is freely available in Colorado. Any resident can legally get two ounces of marijuana a day (at an average of $150 an ounce) and “self-medicate” for almost any reason though even a heavy marijuana user only would get through a quarter of an ounce a day.

Observers say that state “regulation” of the medical marihuana industry was a tragic joke. One group, Smart Colorado, reports that 700 medical marijuana licenses have already been issued in Denver; that legalisation means each of these license holders is now eligible to apply for a recreational license as well. To put this number into context, it compares with the approximately 201 liquor establishments and 123 pharmacies in the city of Denver. No wonder law enforcement officials report that more marijuana is flowing into the black market and out of Colorado in greater quantities than ever before.

Fotolia_1761106_Olivier TuffĂ©Tina Trent, a local blogger on crime and justice issues, hopes that “the reality of legalisation” will be a wake-up call to people in Colorado and other places as they see “people smoking pot in public and every third storefront in the tourist district turning into a head shop”. How, she asks, do you address bus drivers legally smoking pot before their shifts start, and all sorts of people smoking ‘medicinal’ pot all day long, and then getting behind the wheel?

Trent, who has written a major report on the drug legalisation movement in California, is urging the public to counter the propaganda from the “professional pro-drug groups funded by George Soros". She adds that “Legislators need to seriously consider the facts about marijuana abuse by young people".
Her plea has fallen on deaf ears. Despite significant increases in health detection rates of risky marijuana use in Colorado since 2009, despite sharp increases in school age marijuana use, despite evidence of significant diversion from adults to youth, despite the ever expanding body of scientific evidence charting the multiple and significant health and mental health harms... there has been no government response to this violation of federal drug laws.

It seems President Obama’s Department of Justice has decided to put up the white flag to drug use. Such liberality may appeal to the human rights lobby but it is priming a public-health time bomb.
Obama-soros-loresHow can he not be aware of the risks associated with early initiation and regular use of marijuana by young people? Given the now hard scientific evidence concerning marijuana’s impact on young people’s cognitive ability, executive functioning and long term IQ, as well as its risk of inducing psychosis and violence in anyone who takes enough, to say nothing of its enhanced cancer risks – surely this recent ‘normalisation’ of cannabis use would be of considerable concern to the Obama administration? It seems not.

But how long can the president, with teenage children of his own, remain so casual about rising teen pot use under his watch? That is my question for 2014.

This article from the U.K. was sent to us from our colleague and friend, Calvina Fay of Drug Free America.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Turning point - Many politicians and addictions stakeholders were on hand for a groundbreaking Dec. 18 at the site of a women’s addictions recovery house slated to open adjacent to Murdo Frazer Park in the spring. Turning Point Recovery Society executive director Brenda Plant; North Van-Lonsdale MLA Naomi Yamamoto; District of North Van Mayor Richard Walton, Vancouver Coastal Health mental health and addictions director Elizabeth Stanger; North Van MP Andrew Saxton; West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan; Turning Point Recovery Society board chair Gary Schubak and District of North Van Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn.

At the height of her alcohol addiction, North Shore resident Jane couldn’t shake her self-destructive routine of drinking on the way to work and “getting hammered” on the return trip home.

There was a specific route that she would take — one that purposely took her past a liquor store near Lonsdale Quay. Living on her own at the time, Jane (not her real name), lacked a solid support system to help her break the vicious cycle of alcohol abuse.

“I was losing track of days because I blacked out a lot,” she recalls. “The consequences were getting worse. I found myself in the drunk tank and had no idea how I got there.”

Four years ago, Jane who was now broke, finally hit rock bottom and was ready to seek treatment. It was through her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor that she learned of the Turning Point Recovery Society — which operates addiction treatment facilities in Vancouver and Richmond.

Jane stayed at the Vancouver recovery house where, for three months, she received counselling, took yoga classes and learned life skills. There were chores that she would have to complete each week. And, at the end of the day, she was in a safe place — free from the lure of a seemingly innocuous glass of wine.

While in residential treatment, Jane made a connection with one counsellor in particular who inspired her to go back to school. Essentially, says Jane, Turning Point put her back on the right path to a healthy and happy life.

“I feel like I have even more tools,” Jane explains. “It’s a long journey, it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Jane is just one of the 30 per cent of Turning Point clients that have come from the North Shore in the past five years. Soon, those struggling with addiction will be able to receive treatment at a residential facility on this side of the water.

Doug MacKay-Dunn felt a little lighter at the groundbreaking last month for Turning Point’s new women’s addictions recovery house set to open adjacent to Murdo Frazer Park in the spring. The District of North Vancouver councillor has been championing for the North Shore’s first-ever public drug and alcohol recovery centre for over a decade.

In 1999, MacKay-Dunn — a former Vancouver Police Department inspector and one-time Downtown Eastside beat cop — helped establish the North Shore’s first substance abuse task force.
The strong advocate of detox and rehab programs that provide increased support for the families sees a correlation between these addiction support services and the reduction of both violent and property crimes.

“I’ve talked about it being the only answer, as far as I am concerned, to deal with this ballooning drug and alcohol addiction problem,” says MacKay-Dunn.

The problem has hit home for his family. MacKay-Dunn’s daughter had her cellphone stolen while she was riding the bus in North Van. The thief was a 16-year-old, drug-addicted criminal with a “significant” crystal meth dependency, according to MacKay-Dunn.

Now that a women’s treatment facility is on the way, MacKay-Dunn will concentrate his efforts on bringing a similar addictions recovery program for youth to the North Shore.

“This is a problem that is going to be significant,” says MacKay-Dunn of substance abuse among youth. “There are impacts on the criminal justice system, because we are not dealing with the root cause. More and more young people have a huge problem with mental health deficits, some of which has been brought on by the use of drugs.”

Turning Point executive director Brenda Plant says she welcomes those discussions for a youth facility on the North Shore. The recovery society currently operates two men’s and two women’s facilities.
Plant says the decision to open a women’s only facility in North Van was dictated by the results of a needs assessment conducted by Turning Point two years ago.

“Research shows women are more vulnerable when they are in the community and homeless with an addiction issue,” explains Plant.

At the same time, Turning Point also faced opposition from some area residents for the recovery house site at 2670 Lloyd Ave.

“There is still, sadly, misperception about people in recovery from addictions,” says Plant. “We have encountered a lot of NIMBYism. We felt there would have been greater acceptance of a women’s shelter.”

Plant says, well it would be nice to think there are neighbourhoods that are exempt, the reality is addiction does not have boundaries — geographical or otherwise.

Recent Statistics Canada numbers on mental health and addiction validate her point: One in 10 Canadians struggle with, in some cases, several mental health or substance use disorders.

The approximately $2 million capital cost for the North Van recovery house project is being partially funded by all three levels of government and private donors.

While the district is providing Turning Point with the land, DNV park property, at a substantially reduced lease rate, the federal and provincial governments are contributing $250,000 each for a total of $500,000. Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health will provide $40,000 in annual operational funding for program operations onsite.

North Van MP Andrew Saxton attended the facility’s groundbreaking and later told The Outlook via email of the significance of this project for the North Shore community.

“It will provide much needed housing support for women trying to turn their lives around while recovering from addictions and substance abuse,” said Saxton. “Addictions and substance abuse cost the Canadian economy billions of dollars each year and have a huge human cost as well, affecting thousands of Canadian families. It’s estimated that the Canadian healthcare system spends over $1.2 billion each year treating substance abuse.”

When asked about Turning Point’s success rate with addiction recovery, Plant explains how that’s measured along a continuum.

“It isn’t just about abstinence, it’s helping people get integrated back into the community,” says Plant, adding that 75 to 80 per cent of residents are still clean and sober a year after leaving Turning Point.
For Jane, who in her mid-40s, Turning Point put her on a new path, one that includes earning a university degree and a circle of friends.

“Most importantly, I have peace of mind,” says Jane. “I’m not waking up with the incredible feeling of guilt and the ball and chain of addiction.”

From the North Shore Outlook.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I am not normally a Bill O'Reilly Fan, or even much of a FOX news watcher, but I think the guy nailed it on this recent broadcast.

We thank our good friend and colleague, Calvina Fay of Drug Free America for this item.