Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jan 2010
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Black Press
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Lured by price and convenience, Victoria's drug addicts are swapping
heroin for crack cocaine, says a report by the Centre for Addictions
Research B.C.

The result has been fewer drug deaths, but a marked increase in mental
illness, says the report.

"We're getting more crazy people and fewer dead people," said Tim
Stockwell, director at CARB.C.

There's also fewer cases of HIV and hepatitis C. Since crack is smoked,
rather than injected, "there's less spread of bloodborne viruses," said

Victoria's trend towards crack is "worrying," said Walter Cavalieri,
director of the Toronto-based Canadian Harm Reduction Network.

Due to crack, downtown Victoria is poised to become a much sicker and
unstable place, he said.

With heroin as the drug of choice, downtown Victoria's addicts were
largely drowsy and slow-gaited.

Now, these same users are finding themselves hooked on a powerful
stimulant that prompts aggression and paranoia.

Fewer people may be dying from heroin overdoses, but deaths from
crack-fuelled violence may take up the slack, said Stockwell.

The Victoria Police Department, however, hasn't noticed any increases in
downtown violence.

"Whether it's heroin or coke or crack, we will see a certain level of
violence among street communities," said Sgt. Grant Hamilton, spokesperson
for VicPD.

Crack is cheaper than heroin, but it's also more addictive.

As a result, crack users will be much more prone to commit petty crimes to
support their mounting addictions.

Thefts from parked vehicles could also be expected to climb, said Hamilton.

Aside from its lower price, users may be lured to crack because of its

Heroin users need to tote around an ample collection of drug paraphernalia
including needles, shoelaces, water and cotton balls.

Crack users, on the other hand, only need a pipe and a lighter.

A lack of clean needles may also be behind the switch away from heroin to

"The loss of the [Cormorant St.] needle exchange site seems to have
precipitated more use of crack cocaine," said Stockwell.

Without a fixed source of clean needles, users may have switched to
smoking crack as a "safer" method of drug use, he said.

Nevertheless, thousands of clean needles are distributed every month by
mobile needle exchange distribution.

"We're not hearing from the street community that there's a lack of clean
needles," said Hamilton.

Drug trends, like fashion trends, tend to move westward.

Vancouver and Toronto have already undergone the ravages of a
heroin-to-crack conversion.

Cavalieri was a Toronto outreach worker when the crack influx began.

"It became a much rougher community - many more fights . the code of the
street decayed. People were less caring about their friends," said

For the users, it's not only the crack itself that's dangerous, but what's
cut into the drug.

Across North America, the majority of crack cocaine is diluted with
levamisole, a dangerous animal de-wormer, said Cavalieri.

When ingested by humans, levamisole can prompt seizures, unconsciousness
and breathing problems, according to a U.S. health alert.

Widespread crack cocaine usage first appeared in the mid-1980s in the
western U.S. By the early 1990s, the so-called "crack epidemic" had
petered out, but not before prompting a devastating rise in violent crime
and urban poverty.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doug Snead