Teen charged after suspected drug overdoses

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RCMP have charged a 16-year-old boy they believe was involved in the suspected synthetic drug overdoses that sent two teens to hospital last week.

The St. Albert teen is facing two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and a breach of probation. Police allege that he gave the synthetic cannabinoid drug to the other two.

On Sept. 23, RCMP received a report of an unconscious 14-year-old having seizures in a back alley near Mount Royal Drive around 4:30 p.m. A short time later, a 16-year-old teen was found in medical distress in a school parking lot near Mont Clare Place.

Both teens are students at St. Albert Catholic High School.

As of Thursday afternoon, the 14- and 16-year-old teenagers had been released from hospital.

RCMP do not yet have proof of what type of synthetic cannabinoid the teens smoked, said Cpl. Laurel Kading of the St. Albert RCMP.

The teens were under the impression the drug was safe and legal, she said.

She noted that once the teens ingested the drug they were under severe medical distress within one minute.

Health effects from these types of drugs can include headaches and confusion to hallucinations, seizures, psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts, and death.

Health Canada recently issued a warning about synthetic drugs, the third one this year. It says the number of new psychoactive substances also known as “designer drugs”, “legal highs” and “herbal highs” are rapidly growing in Canadian and international illegal drug markets.

Christine Bassett-Daviau, an addictions and substance abuse counsellor with Alberta Health Services, said marijuana is the most common drug she sees youth addicted to in St. Albert. However, it is not the ‘gateway drug’ people tend to classify it as.

“I think there’s more of a permissive thought process about marijuana (in society) … but addiction is addiction is addiction right across the board,” she explained.

“Whether it’s tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, food, video games, I think that if you’re using something in order to feel normal or escape, then anything can be a gateway drug in that regard.”

She noted there has been increasing trend in youth drug use in outlying communities.

“Sometimes there is increase in experimentation based on the fact that they don’t have, or have perceived access to, as many leisure activities,” she said, adding those factors don’t necessarily apply in St. Albert.

Bassett-Daviau explained youth are resourceful accessing drugs (typically through peers) and combined with a false sense of security that the substance is legal, it then leads to drug use.

“Youth need to be aware that it’s not just pot, Spice or K2, there are effects. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s not harmful.”

Superintendent of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, David Keohane, said the overdose incident will be a cautionary tale for students.

“If there’s any belief in the mind of a teen that there’s such a thing as a safe street drug, this incident has shown that that can’t be the case,” he said.

The 16-year-old charged with criminal negligence will appear in St. Albert Youth Court on Nov. 5.

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