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May 16, 2002
Report on Drug Use in Toronto Released
  
The 11th annual report on illicit drugs has just been released by the Research
Group on Drug Use. The report, Drug Use in Toronto, 2001, provides estimates of
the use of specific drugs, such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin and
highlights key issues relevant to local drug use and prevention.

Among the findings in this year's report:

· Cannabis, primarily in the form of marijuana, remains the most popular
illicit drug. Its use is reported by 14% of Toronto adults, 23% of junior high
and high school students and 72% of street youth. These levels of use are
higher than those of previous years, reflecting a trend in most major North
American cities. The report reviews changes affecting the regulation of
marijuana, including trials of medicinal use and driving under the influence of
the drug.

· Designer drugs, a relatively new class of "home-made" chemicals, continue to
be popular. The most recently available data indicate that five deaths were
known to be associated with Ecstasy (or MDMA) use in Toronto in 1998 and 1999.
PMA, one of many Ecstasy "imposters," was associated with two deaths in Ontario
in 2000. Ecstasy use is reported by 6% of students, and just under 3% of
adults. In a University Health Network study, 10.4% of patients in a Toronto
hospital emergency department in the evening and weekends studies, reported the
use of one or more of the "designer drugs" Ecstasy, GHB or Ketamine within the
past 24 hours. The continuing popularity of designer drugs presents unique
challenges in terms of the prevention of drug-related harm. The substances
used to make these drugs vary, therefore, their potential health effects are
often unknown.

· Another concern is the increase in solvent use reported by junior high and
high school students. In the most recent data, approximately 5% of Toronto
students reported inhaling glue, while 9% used other solvents such as gasoline
and nail polish remover. This compares to 1-2% reporting use of these
substances in the early 1990s. This addictive and potentially lethal practice
is also common among street youth, 2% of whom reported daily solvent use.

· Crack continues to dominate drug use among the approximately 15,000
Torontonians who use injection drugs. While crack smoking remains popular,
crack injection has also become common. Seventy percent of injection drug users
in a recent Toronto study reported crack injection. This practice has been
associated with a corresponding increase in Hepatitis C among injection drug
users. A study of Hepatitis C among Toronto crack users is currently being
organized.

· Canada's first Drug Treatment Court (DTC) opened in Toronto in December,
1998. The DTC allows drug users accused of various non-violent offences the
opportunity to accept a "sentence" of court supervised treatment in lieu of
incarceration. Preliminary data from the Toronto DTC indicates that rates of
re-arrest are significantly reduced for graduates of this program (12.5%)
versus those not completing the program. (63.4%)

The information for the Drug Use in Toronto annual reports are compiled from
numerous sources, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the
Toronto Police Force, the Works Injection Drug Users Program, the Office of the
Chief Coroner of Ontario, the Drug and Alcohol Registry of Treatment, the
College of Physicians and Surgeons, the University of Toronto and others.

The Research Group on Drug Use was formed in 1990. Members include the Centre
for Addiction and Mental Health, the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario,
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Toronto Police Service, Toronto Public
Health, and The Works Injection Drug Users' Program.

The full report can be found at: http://www.cit
y.toronto.on.ca/drugcentre/rgdu00/rgdu1.htm


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