Overdose just by touching fentanyl? Kamloops doc calls out inaccurate drug education for students | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Overdose just by touching fentanyl? Kamloops doc calls out inaccurate drug education for students

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November 21, 2019 - 7:00 AM

A Kamloops physician has turned to Twitter to express his outrage with a program aimed at deterring school-aged children from using drugs.

Project EDGE — which stands for Educate, Develop, Grow and Excel — takes place every year and involves Kamloops Blazer hockey players visiting Vancouver’s downtown eastside with an RCMP escort. The players then return to Kamloops and visit Grade 6 students to share their experience.

Dr. Ian Mitchell has been a physician in Kamloops for more than a decade and has been practicing in emergency medicine for more than 20 years. Mitchell first heard of the Project EDGE program more than two years ago from his daughter.

After Mitchell heard of the first presentation with his daughter, the parent advisory committee made recommendations to have the program changed. This year, Mitchell decided to sit in on his son’s class at Lloyd George Elementary school.

“I decided to go into my son’s class and see how it was being presented and found a lot of stuff that was misleading,” Mitchell says.

One statement that Mitchell took the most issue with was a statement from an RCMP officer who stated if a person touches fentanyl powder, they could die.

“This is well known to be false and it has been exaggerated by the RCMP for awhile,” he says.

Mitchell says many points discussed during the presentation seemed to stigmatize and dehumanize drug users.

“I didn’t see medical information being presented,” he says. “What I saw were horror stories, graphic imagery, scare tactics and things we know that are not effective in this education.”

Mitchell says the program mirrors DARE — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — programs which has largely been criticized by academics and experts.

“We found (DARE) wasn’t effective and it had the unfortunate consequence of having some of the students be more likely to engage in drugs because they saw the information as not being credible,” he says. “Risk takers out there felt ‘OK well that’s not going to happen to me and I am going to go out there and do it’ so it’s very counter-productive.”

Mitchell says he has seen little change in the way the program presents information.

“The main message is still the same: that drug users are dirty, disgusting people and if you do drugs then you are going to end up in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver and it really ignores the reality that drug use is a problem for all levels of society,” he says. “Most people are able to hide it from the prying eyes of gawkers but if you are poor and can’t get off the streets, you have to engage with people or be exploited by them.”

After the presentation, Mitchell says he decided to write a letter to the Minister of Education, Rob Fleming, asking why there is still such programming allowed in schools. He hasn’t heard back yet, but is looking forward to a response. A copy of the letter was also sent to the school board.

Mitchell says he would also like to see qualified officials from the Kamloops-Thompson school district teaching students about drugs.

“The thing is, we have educators within School District 73 who do drug education so there is no reason for the RCMP to be in there,” he says.

Click on the tweet below to view the entire thread posted by Dr. Ian Mitchell in Kamloops.


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