This teen is winning his battle with drug addiction, but too many other B.C. youth not protected

published on July 20, 2018 by Lori Culbert in Vancouver Sun

Eighteen-year-old Cade Hansen’s love for music inspired his roles in the theatre as a youth, his performances in choirs and bands as a teen, and his plan to study music production after finishing high school.

Along the engaging young man’s musical path, though, were detours caused by his struggles with addictions and mental health. The mainstream high school he was attending didn’t intervene sufficiently to get him back on track, and like many young people in that situation he was in denial that he needed help.

“You are not worrying about yourself. At that point, especially as a youth dealing with depression and stuff like that, the whole drug abuse and then teenage depression, it just becomes one dark messy blob,” Hansen reflected about his past. “There had been a lot of inner demons I was battling at the time.”

The North Vancouver teen from a close-knit family was battling anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and an addiction that had morphed from alcohol and pot, to pharmaceuticals like Xanax and Percocet, then to cocaine. After too many emergency visits to the hospital, he was determined to get back on the right path: He enrolled two years ago in Mountainside Secondary, a unique alternative high school that offers a variety of in-house supports including a doctor, counsellors and musical therapy.

The flexible and non-judgmental school has worked for Hansen, who today has eliminated most vices from his life and is close to earning his Grade 12 diploma.

“It brings a big smile to my face when I think about it. It was a tremendous amount of help. … It’s like I have the hospital right here but I’m still learning every day. It’s really, really, really amazing,” said Hansen of Mountainside, which is in North Vancouver.

“Not everyone here is a bad kid or a drug user or broke the law. But just the fact that there is a place here for all sorts who need help, especially us kids who have been down the gutter with drugs and stuff.”

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