Spring melt reveals needle problem in Prince Albert
Published Thursday, April 14, 2011 3:16PM CST
The spring thaw isn't just revealing cracks and potholes in roadways; it's also exposing countless needles on the ground in Prince Albert. While the needles themselves are cause for alarm -- they are also a blunt reminder of a much deeper social problem; the rampant use of hard drugs in Saskatchewan communities and the problems associated with addiction.
Like in all big cities, addicts in Prince Albert try to keep their drug use hidden, often ducking into alleyways or under bridges to shoot up.
Megan Belanger runs Prince Albert's Needle Exchange program. She says the city's problem is symptomatic of an even bigger issue: addiction.
"Quite often the stories that I hear in here from the people that I see on a regular basis is due to abuse, sexual abuse as a child, being put out on the streets as a child by family members to make money," said Belanger.
So which hard drugs are on the streets of Prince Albert? According to the needle exchange, morphine, Dilantin and cocaine are among the most actively injected drugs.
The needles pose other serious threats. They can carry HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases, making the clean-up everyone's problem.
The needle exchange continues to tackle that problem with drop-off boxes along city streets, but it's a big job.
Dr. Leo Lanoie, with the Prince Albert Cooperative Health Centre, says the problem could be a lot worse.
"In reality, you would be seeing 19 times more, 20 times more needles because we pick up 95 per cent of them. People are going to get needles, that's a no brainer. They don't have to come. They may reuse the same needle more often, they may share needles."
Help is out there for addicts. Counseling is available across the city, including the Cooperative Health Centre where Dr. Lanoie treats his patients.
The spring thaw in Prince Albert is revealing plenty of needles around the city - a blunt reminder of the addiction in the northern community.