Grade 12 student learns new life skill … how to detect deadly drugs

published on March 27, 2018 by John Kurucz in Vancouver Courier

Graduation of any sort invites talk of party time.

Mailen Cassullo is poised to leave high school in a few months and the same holds true for her.

The party these days, however, is a lot different.

Cassullo is acutely aware of that fact and is looking to arm herself, and by extension her peers, with the tools to save a life, or identify a bad batch of drugs.

The 18-year-old Maple Ridge resident is partnering with Downtown Eastside harm reduction group Karmik to better understand the realities of nightlife and party culture in 2018. She gets her first look Thursday, March 29 as part of a monthly drug-checking night at the Powell Street Getaway Resource Centre, a supervised drug consumption site.

“A lot of kids, especially around my age, they’re very uneducated on what could actually be in what they’re taking,” Cassullo said. “They don’t really take that into account or pay attention to what they’re putting into their bodies and how that can actually kill them if it’s not what they think they’re taking.”

Thursday’s drug-checking program includes the use of a Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR), which tests for a range of substances: opioids, stimulants and other psychoactive drugs such as MDMA. The machine was first rolled out in November 2017 as part a pilot project between the city, Vancouver Coastal Health and the B.C. Centre on Substance Us.

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