A change in attitude? 

Tolerance of drug and alcohol abuse amongst Whistler youth appears to be
declining. Clare Ogilvie investigates how communication and
accountability are keys to helping youth stay on track.

By Clare Ogilvie

Some Whistler parents want to sound an alarm bell over the use of drugs and alcohol by the community’s youth.

“…So many in this town for so long have got the blinders on and they think that it is not happening here,” said one mom who doesn’t want her name used to protect the identity of her child.

“But there are parties every weekend. Kids are staying out all night and many parents don’t even know whom their kids are supposed to be staying with. It’s time for us to wake up.

“I believe these kids need our help and guidance, our patience and a lot more supervision and not our judgment.”

According to the most recent Whistler statistics on youth, drugs, sex and alcohol, there is nothing to suggest that the community’s youth are any different from other kids in B.C. or across Canada. (See sidebar).

But for some parents the numbers just aren’t that important. It’s as if the town has reached a tipping point and as a community people are unprepared to put up with this behaviour.

Bev Oakley, principal of Whistler Secondary, believes she is witnessing that change first hand.

“I think from a health and safety standpoint the attitude of the community toward drug use by youth has changed quite a lot, just as we have seen a change in attitude toward wearing seat belts or helmets,” said Oakley. “There used to be a blind eye turned to drinking and marijuana use, but with more information about the profound health effects that these substances are having on our youth this attitude is changing.”

The drugs on offer today, including marijuana, are far more powerful than they were 20 or so years ago and tend to be laced with a variety of other substances that can be dangerous or highly addictive. Some of the latest statistics indicate that as much as 25 per cent of the ecstasy available for sale is now laced with methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant.

“I think that message is slowly getting out there that this represents a significant danger to our youth,” said Oakley.

“The community as a whole seems to be evolving to a point of lower tolerance of teen drug use as parents become more educated about the dangers of the drugs available today.”

Parental fear regarding the possible consequences to their children is very real. Indeed there was even a suggestion by some parents at a PAC meeting in 2005 to bring sniffer dogs in as a deterrent to bringing drugs onto school property. (The majority of parents, however, did not support the idea.)

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