Home News GRIP anti-Drug campaign stirs up controversy

GRIP anti-Drug campaign stirs up controversy

by Archives April 8, 2008

A new ad campaign warning about the dangers of drugs is raising concern that it may actually entice people to use them.
The campaign was launched in March by Montreal non-profit Psychosocial Research and Intervention Group (GRIP) and is aimed at educating people about recreational drugs such as speed, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and GHB.
The campaign consists of distributing 35,000 small cards at various bars and restaurants throughout the Ville-Marie borough. Each card provides specific information on a substance – its effects, duration and even how to use it.
But the information is causing controversy, both in Montreal and Quebec City. On Wednesday Sylvie Roy, the ADQ’s public security critic, stood up in the National Assembly and accused the campaign of promoting cocaine use.
At issue is information such as, “compared to other drugs, a much smaller quantity of ketamine is necessary to get high.” Critics say this could make it a tempting alternative for those who can’t afford more expensive drugs like cocaine or ecstasy.
“You don’t treat drug abusers with drugs, or sex abusers with sex,” said Gerry Sidel, a social worker and director of the Addington Addiction Treatment Center, who opposes the campaign.
But those involved in the GRIP campaign do not agree.
“We have to be honest and truthful,” said Jean-Sébastien Fallu, the chairman and founder of GRIP, “Our old campaigns have not worked, so it’s worthwhile giving this a try.”
GRIP’s main philosophy is “harm reduction”; instead of hammering drug users with criticism, it aims instead to make them “responsible.”
Fallu compares this ad campaign to Operation Nez Rouge, which fights against impaired driving by offering free rides during the holidays to those who are have drank too much to drive at the end of the night.
“We try to educate the people into being responsible users rather than stopping them from using, because they’ll do it anyways,” he said.
Some Concordia students, who are part of the campaign’s target audience, think it’s a good plan.
“I think it’s very clever. In high school, they used to only tell us that drugs were bad, without any more explanations, which only made us want to try them,” said Catherine Cournoyer, a Concordia design art student. “Educating people is always good, and if they still choose to do the drugs, at least they’ll be more aware of what they are doing.”
But others aren’t so convinced.
“I just don’t agree with this. Instead of prevention, they’re attempting to explain the behaviour of users. It can’t be the right solution,” said Zuzana Burianova, enrolled in Concordia’s dance program.
But GRIP makes it clear.
“Warnings about drugs has been done over and over again,” said Fallu, “And kids just don’t listen.”

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