March 23, 2009

Media contact: Anne Russell
Cell: 604-798-3709
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Plecas back to Oxford for second round table

Dr. Darryl Plecas

UFV criminologist Darryl Plecaswill be returning to the hallowed paths of Oxford, England, this spring for another session of the prestigious Oxford Round Table.

Last year, Plecas was invited to present on ways of addressing the marijuana grow op problem. This year, he and his colleagues are presenting a paper on adulterated drugs, or the practice of adding substances other than the presumed main ingredients to street drugs.

“The question is, when people are buying what they think is a party drug such as ecstasy, is that all they’re getting?” says Plecas.

His team’s research shows that it’s often laced with more addictive drugs such as methamphetamine, oxycontin (aka hillbilly heroin), or ketamine, which is a horse tranquilizer.

The study, entitled The Problem of Adulterated Drugs, involved examining illegal street drugs that were seized by the RCMP. They were analyzed by Health Canada and/or the UBC School of Pharmacy. Plecas co-wrote the paper with Sherry Mumford, a UFV criminal justice alumna who is now the Regional Addictions Manager with the Fraser Health Authority, and Amanda McCormack of the B.C. Centre for Social Responsibility.

“We found that the average ecstasy tablet contains nine different contaminants, including methamphetamines, oxycontin, ketamine, gamma hydroxybutyrate,” says Plecas. “Or sometimes they’re lacing it with things that aren’t even drugs. This is likely intentional at times, but can also be a result of sloppy practices. These illicit drug manufacturers working from clandestine labs may be chemists, but they’re not necessarily good or meticulous ones.”

Plecas notes that taking contaminated street drugs can have serious consequences. “There have been deaths attributed to unintentional overdoses of mislabelled or misrepresented drugs.”

And he says the sad thing is, people trust their dealers too much.

“If you ask the users, they always think their drugs are pure. We know through our research that they are often wrong,” he says. “Drug adulteration is increasingly prevalent in B.C.”

The paper recommends stiffer penalties for those who lace street drugs with adulterants.

“We’re saying that it’s bad enough that you produce and traffic in illicit drugs, but it’s even more serious when you do it in a fraudulent way and expose people to more dangerous contaminants.”

The Oxford Round Table is an invitation-only forum that provides an opportunity for select leaders in both the public and private sectors, as well as scholars, to discuss government policy over a five-day period in a collegial, “think-tank” atmosphere in the ancient city of Oxford, England.

It was first convened over 20 years ago to consider major issues in contemporary educational policy. The meeting was so successful that subsequent sessions were held. During the later half of the of the 1990s, the Round Table expanded to consider important public policy matters bearing on human rights, law, economics, public finance and politics.

“The fact that representatives from UFV and Fraser Health, Mental Health and Additions have been invited really illustrates how seriously regarded our research is internationally,” noted Plecas.

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