Report on drug use in Toronto released|
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The Toronto Research Group on Drug Use (RGDU), a partnership of more than 20
agencies, has released the 2004 Drug Use in Toronto report highlighting illegal
drug use in the City. The report provides an overview of the use of specific
drugs among various population sub-groups based on recent surveys and other
data. Among the findings in this year's report:
Marijuana use is increasing among all groups surveyed and is approaching
the highest levels since monitoring began 30 years ago. This includes students
at 23 per cent and the general adult population at 15 per cent. Survey results
show a significant proportion of licensed drivers report having driven after
smoking marijuana. The high rates of use among students suggest the need for
public safety messages in schools concerning marijuana use and driving.
Surveys indicate very high levels of drug addiction among homeless teens.
Many of these youth suffer from concurrent disorders, such as mental illness.
There is currently no residential treatment in Toronto for these youth.
Thousands of teens continue to live on the streets and self-medicate with
A ten-fold increase in methadone treatment for heroin addiction is
credited for a significant decrease in heroin-related deaths in Toronto, from a
peak of 67 deaths in 1994 to 25 in 2001.
Crack cocaine continues to be the most popular drug among homeless and
marginalized populations. This has been true for more than a decade in Toronto.
Smoked and injected crack cocaine causes serious health and social problems
among those living in poverty.
Data show increased use of other dangerous drugs, including oxycodone and
methamphetamine. In 2002, 27 deaths resulted from use of oxycodone, a narcotic
pain reliever, compared to the previous peak of seven in 2001. Chewing or
dissolving and injecting tablets intended for timed-release adds to the risk of
oxycodone-related poisonings, which are being noted in many cities.
The 2003 data show inhalant (solvent) use reported by 8 per cent of
junior high and high school students, and 3 per cent reported sniffing glue.
This potentially fatal practice was most popular among the youngest students
surveyed. These elevated levels of inhalant use locally mirrors trends reported
in the United States, where use is associated with teens being at home alone
after school and having very low levels of risk awareness.
There are increased reports of drug-related poisonings related to the
contamination of illicit substances. The variety of drugs available, including
popular designer drugs and poly-drugs (combined substances) and the potential
for serious injury or death, underline the need to strengthen coordination
among agencies to minimize the harm of drug use in the city.
Frank Giorno, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974
Sylvia Hagopian, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,