Pubdate: Wed, 01 Apr 2009
Source: St. Albert Gazette (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 St. Albert Gazette
Author: Ryan Tumilty
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Cheaper Prices And Abundant Supply Have Made Cocaine The Drug Of
Choice For Many Again

Tom's cocaine habit led him into a ditch. It was both a literal and a
figurative rock bottom. It was there that he finally decided to end
his addiction once and for all.

His four-year rollercoaster ride finally came to an end. He had been
awake for three days, was on his last dime and had no idea how he was
going to get to work the next day.

Tom, (not his real name), says sitting waiting for a tow truck to get
him out he finally realized how desperately he needed help.

Tom says most people wouldn't even have gone out for milk in the
weather that night, but he needed to feed his habit.

"I had no business being on the road at all and here I was trying to
go out and score more drugs."

Tom's relationships were in shambles and he had declared bankruptcy.
He had already lost one job and feared he would lose another. He
called his boss and laid it all out. He had nothing left.

"I didn't want to lose anything else at that point. I had lost almost

Tom's employer helped and got him into a 49-day treatment program he
believes ultimately saved his life.

Dark ride

What ultimately became an $800 a day habit started out relatively
innocently when a friend introduced him to cocaine at a party.

He says he had smoked marijuana before and drank heavily at times, but
always felt in control. On cocaine he lost all focus.

"It gets you on to a ride that you really can't get

Tom's says the early stages, when he didn't believe he had a problem,
were probably the most dangerous because he was constantly using.

"There were times where I was easily going through $700 to $800 per
day," he says. "I would be taking off at like 3 a.m. the instant my
paycheque was rolling into my bank account looking to score. I had to
work like three hours later, but it didn't matter."

Tom had a good paying job that financed his addiction, but he says
most addicts will always find a way.

"It made it easier to get deep into the addiction, it made it easier
to really get a foothold, but I think a lot of people will be addicted
anyways, regardless of their finances."

Trying to quit

Long before Tom ended up in a ditch and ended his addiction for good,
he realized he had a problem and tried to quit, even staying clean for
several months at a time.

He says the addiction only made him feel worse afterwards, but he
still couldn't stop.

"Once you recognize the fact that you have become an addict, it takes
a lot of the fun out of using drugs because you know you are feeding
your own demise," he says. "You know you are doing something that is
completely destructive. You know it is not going to work."

He says the self-loathing thoughts that ran through his mind fuelled
the addiction even more.

"The guilt and shame that I was carrying was just a cycle. I was
guilty because I was using and I got down and then I got down so I
would use again."

When he started using again he always thought he could keep it under
control. He was always wrong.

"It is every addict's fantasy to get in control of their drug of
choice to get into some kind of controlled use, but it just doesn't
happen. It is a myth."

On the rise

Cocaine arrests in St. Albert have been on a steady rise from only
four possession charges in 2005 to 15 last year.

Nationally the rate per 100,000 people charged has risen from 39.2 in
2002 to 71.9 in 2007. Alberta's numbers are even higher with 98
charges per 100,000 people in 2007 up from 55 in 2002.

Locally St. Albert RCMP Insp. Warren Dosko says there will continue to
be more charges because the detachment is targeting people selling

"You are going to see more arrests and convictions because we have
made a priority and not just cocaine, but the entire drug industry,"
he says. "We know that is a significant factor in the social disorder
that sometimes happens in St. Albert."

He says the flow of cocaine into the entire country has also increased
steadily in the last few years.

"You have this flow of B.C. bud, this high-grade marijuana going to
the States and in return you have high quality cocaine coming to Canada."

He says more of the drug on the street only lowers the price, which
puts it in the hands of more addicts.

"If you look at the price of what cocaine was 10 or 15 years ago and
the price that it is today, you would have seen a big decrease," he
says. "You don't have to have a $100,000 a year job to have a cocaine

Dosko says cocaine, while debilitating, often still allows people to
limp along and problems can be harder to spot than with other drug

"Cocaine can be a much more invisible addiction from the outside," he
says. "You have people in professions that are cocaine addicts that go
to work every day."

Cleaning up

Tom is still clearing up problems he caused while an addict. He is
emerging from bankruptcy, he has a mountain of unpaid traffic fines he
hopes to pay off soon and he has repaired many of his personal

He says, looking back on his addiction, he was lucky in a lot of ways
and did better than most other addicts.

"I have had more close calls than I care to talk about or that I am
even aware of frankly," he says. "I am very lucky I didn't end up in
hospital or jail or in a box."

After Tom left the 49-day program he began attending counselling
sessions and weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings to stay on the right

He says the early days were very hard. All of a sudden he had to
confront his problems rather than escaping from them through drugs.

"All I was doing was seeing all this reality wash back over me that I
had been pushing away. There were all these things that I had to face.
It was really overwhelming."

He says when he first came to a meeting, he didn't expect it would
help, but he learned his story is not unique and people who fell into
the same holes can help him get out.

"You think as an addict that you are unique and your addiction is
special, but it is not," he says. "There is nothing you can say that
people there have never heard before."

At this point Tom says there is no other option but to continue with
his treatment.

"I know that if I don't stay sober and work a program it is just a
matter of time for me that I would end up on the street or dead."

He says he has come to view his addiction as a disease and he is
getting help.

"People call it a disease and it is a disease and my medicine is to go
to meetings, talk to my sponsor. My medicine is to work the program."



St. Albert AADAC

24-hour Help Line

Cocaine Anonymous 780-425-2715

Narcotics Anonymous 780-421-4429 
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