Canada Drug Abuse
While in many ways the drug abuse profiles in Canada parallel those of its big neighbor to the south, Canada has its own unique smuggling and trafficking trends that have much to do with the country’s patterns of immigration. In the United States, much of the drug trafficking is carried out by Mexican, South American or Caribbean drug traffickers. In Canada, family ties to China and India are involved in much of the movement of drugs into the country from foreign lands.
Immigration figures between 2005 and 2007 show that Chinese and Indian immigrants into Canada outnumbered those of other nations by at least two to one. These two countries have led immigration figures since 1990 and perhaps earlier. Family and business ties to their home countries facilitate the trafficking of precursor chemicals or drugs such as heroin into Canada and drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamine outbound. Currently, urban areas such as Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto are home to large immigrant populations.
##Canada Has Become a Strong Drug-Production Source
Canada has become a prominent manufacturing location for marijuana, methamphetamine and MDMA (Ecstasy). It produces more of these three drugs than the domestic demand.
The U.S. is often the recipient of the marijuana, most notably the potent hydroponic “B.C. Bud” grown in British Columbia. The marijuana that goes to the U.S. often travels by private aircraft. With the increasing number of marijuana growers in the U.S., it is expected that more of Canada’s marijuana crop will start heading overseas to Europe or the Pacific rim countries.
Canada has a strong global position in the methamphetamine production and export trade. Little of its product crosses the border into the U.S., as Mexican drug trafficking organizations generally control that market. However, the large Asian population in Canada means tight networks from Canada to points in Asia and Pacific regions. Through family or business connections, much of Canada’s meth makes its way across the Pacific to Japan or Australia. The demand for methamphetamine in the Asia-Pacific region is at an all-time high, meaning that there is plenty of demand for the methamphetamine produced in Canada.
The increase in production of the addictive club drug MDMA (Ecstasy) is also a concern. Here too, Asia-Canadians have been discovered as the driving forces behind the importation of manufacturing chemicals needed from their homelands. Large, sophisticated MDMA labs have been found in British Columbia, Quebec and Toronto. One lab that was dismantled by authorities had enough of the drug on hand to make 1.7 million tablets. Canada’s MDMA manufacturers dominate the domestic supply and are gaining a strong presence internationally.
##Demand for Unique Drugs Reflects Immigrant Populations##
Canada’s unique mix of immigrant populations means that there is more demand for some illicit drugs that are not trafficked into the United States in great quantities. Hash, hash oil, opium and khat (a drug from Eastern Africa or Arabia) are shipped in by mail, airline luggage, courier or cargo container.
Khat is mostly smuggled into areas with large Eastern African populations such as Quebec and Ontario. More recently, shipments of khat have been found that were destined for Alberta and Manitoba. Traffickers are usually found to be those who have ties to Eastern Africa or the Middle East.
Opium is mostly consumed by Middle Eastern males in Vancouver and Toronto. Most of the opium found in Canada originates in Turkey or Iran.
##Cocaine Smuggling Follows Similar Paths in U.S. and Canada##
Cocaine is the only drug that largely follows the drug conduits that feed U.S. addictions. Most cocaine in Canada originates in Colombia or Peru and comes to Canada by way of Mexico. For example, investigations to find the source of cocaine seized at the Vancouver airport in 2007 found that some Mexican airline baggage handlers were placing luggage loaded with drugs on flights to Vancouver so they could circumvent security searches.
In the last few years, the main trafficking pattern has switched from shipping by air to moving the drug across land. Now, most seizures take place at the Ports of Entry in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. One of the more recent concealment measures has been to convert cocaine to a liquid and conceal it in bottles of health or hygiene products.
Cocaine tends to flow east from its delivery points: from British Columbia to the other western provinces and from Quebec and Ontario to the Maritimes. Groups with ties to Latin America dominate cocaine trafficking, while Indo-Canadian, Asia-Canadian and outlaw motorcycle gangs show up in this category less often.
###Smaller Demand for Heroin###
While America receives the bulk of its heroin by way of Mexican drug trafficking organizations, Canada’s heroin largely originates in India and comes into the country mostly through Vancouver or Toronto international airports. Some Colombia/Latin American heroin is detected from time to time. The heroin trade in Canada is fairly modest, as many Canadians who are addicted to opiates are currently abusing synthetic opiates in the form of prescription drugs.
###Prescription Drugs in Ample Supply###
Prescription drugs intended for abuse come from a variety of sources. Codeine has been found that originated in India, steroids from China, diazepam (a benzodiazepine) from Thailand, oxycodone mailed from New Jersey. Drugs are also diverted from legitimate supplies within the country such as hospitals and pharmacies.
###The Effects of Drug Trafficking###
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse estimates that the cost of illicit drug abuse runs $22.8 billion per year, or $725 for every Canadian. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism accounts for $14.6 billion of this cost and illicit drugs account for the remaining $8.2 billion.
The value of drugs seized in 2007 had a street value of more than $2.6 billion. The illicit drug trade drains the pockets of Canadians and the economy of many more billions than that.
Of course, the most tragic effect is the damage done to the lives of those who abuse drugs or alcohol and become dependent or addicted. In 2008, more than 1.7 million Canadians stated they were drinking enough alcohol to harm themselves. More than 400,000 used cocaine or crack cocaine. And more than 700,000 people stated they were experiencing harm due to their drug use.
###The Young Suffer the Most###
It is the young who suffer most from drug or alcohol abuse. In a 2008 survey, the average age of first use of alcohol was 15.6 years of age. Additionally, five times as many drinkers 15 to 24 years of age stated that they experienced bouts of heavy drinking compared to the number reported by adults 25 and older.
Younger Canadians are also much heavier users of marijuana than those who are over 25. The prevalence of use in youth 15 to 24 was 33 percent, compared to 7 percent by the over-25 group. The average age that people began using marijuana was 15.5 years.
What the figures don’t describe is the pain of addiction. The loss that occurs when obtaining the next dose of a drug is more important than taking care of oneself, one’s loved ones, home or work. Everything, including self-esteem, are lost when a person gets trapped in addiction.
###Every Citizen Needs Access to Effective Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation###
Canada has the same need for effective drug rehabilitation as every other country with citizens who become addicted. The more people who complete a rehabilitation program that really works, the more honest citizens are returned to production and an enjoyable life.