It is all over the media; Rob Ford the Mayor of Toronto the largest city in Canada admitted to having used crack cocaine while drunk.
Stories like this become a bonanza for the media, the political activists and the late night talk shows. The public opinion is divided along partisan and political lines ranging from the ones calling for the Mayor’s resignations and the ones stressing the personal and privacy side of the story; probably most of the general public is simply indifferent or oblivious.
The major disappointment in this story is that we are still missing how serious the drug problem is in this city, in this province and in the country. Now that even the Mayor is admitting to using an illicit substance which is likely to cause many psychological, behavioural, cognitive, familial, community and workplace consequences, why not taking the opportunity to address this problem and stop pretending there is no elephant in the room?
Let’s start by putting the issue of drug abuse into perspective; for how many people is crack cocaine a problem for? Like any other illicit behaviour statistics are underestimating the real size of the problem, but for example from a survey conducted in 2005 in Ontario about 43,000 students from grade 7 to grade 12 used cocaine at least once in the previous year, while about 20,000 have used crack cocaine in the same referenced period. Over one per cent of Canadians 15 years and older used crack or cocaine in 2012, according to Health Canada’s Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey.
Crack cocaine is the third most abused illegal drug in Canada, right after marijuana and hallucinogens. Crack cocaine is the most addictive form of cocaine, it builds up tolerance quickly and it is one of the hardest drugs to quit.
The city of Toronto recently described the typical crack cocaine addict as one of alienation, solitude and danger; the wide spread use crack cocaine is of “most concern” in T.O.
And what’s about the true cost of crack cocaine’s addiction? Besides the $ that it takes to maintain the addiction the true cost of crack cocaine is to be expressed in wasted lives (of the addict and of the people around him or her). How can the human cost for the family (likely to experience divorce, financial distress, violence and abuse), the community (likely to experience violence, illegal behaviours and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents) and the workplaces (likely to have increased lost time, inefficiency and accidents) be accounted for? What’s about the children of crack users and what’s about the cost of the violence triggered by crack cocaine? What’s about the family and friend who are trying to help but they cannot because there are not enough facilities to get all the addicts the crack-cocaine addiction treatment and detox that they need?
Simply talking about one person (Mayor or common citizen) will not do anything to help the other thousands trying to control and manage the modern day curse of illegal drugs.
I really hope that Rob Ford will not become a Mayor’s disappointment and that thanks to his admission there will be an increased awareness about the issues that people dealing with drug related problems have to face on a daily basis.