Cocaine in Canada
This May, the National Post and Daily Hive published stunning studies confirming lofty rankings for Canadians when it comes to our over-indulgence in cocaine. The fact that we ranked 2nd out of 36 countries should raise red flags, but for anyone who works in the addiction field, it came as no surprise.
The easy thing to do is chalk it up to our location; our market, after all, is flooded with a high-quality product that is relatively affordable. The average price of $85 per gram, although substantially less than the global average of $120, is still twice the price of a gram of gold. Cocaine is an expensive product that we seem to have an insatiable appetite for.
Out of those who reported that they did use cocaine, a whopping 6 out of 10 admitted that they wished they did less.
The problem we face is that recreational and problem drug use is becoming more commonplace and socially acceptable. Now to be clear, I don’t think anyone is suggesting we go back to the War on Drugs, a la Richard Nixon, Reagan and Bush, but the status quo isn’t working either.
We have a market that is flooded and prices that are “affordable”, but cocaine and connected issues are costing the Canadian economy billions of dollars annually. We also have addiction rates at epidemic proportions and little to no public funding for addiction treatment. Oh, and people are dying.
If you’re wondering what type of strain our system is under, just take a drive down Main and Hastings. If that many people are homeless and in the open, how many multiples of that number do you think there are hiding in the shadows?
How many sons and daughters, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters do you think there are balancing on the edge of managing their life and slipping into a downward spiral.
Punishing our way out of the ubiquitous drug crisis is about as likely to work as coddling our way out of it. It’s high time that an actual plan was laid out; a solution that not only looked at root causes but also provided a viable solution. Reactionary measures are not paying dividends and it’s time we admit it.
Those on the left may encourage blanket legalization, while those on the right might suggest stoic reform, but the reality is that every Canadian can get behind a treatment model.
The entire issue goes beyond whether the substance is legal and what we are doing from a criminal justice perspective; that much is clear by the fact that Canadians also consume a globally disproportionate amount of alcohol. If you’re wondering, we’re in the top three for drinking as well.
The Cost Cycle
Based on the average national income for individuals, which is $46,700, and the Federal tax bracket for that income, which is 15 per cent, the Federal government misses out on $7,005 of tax revenue each year for every person unable to work because of addiction. That figure doesn’t even take into account the Provincial tax levy, which, depending on where you live, might double that sum, or more.
Despite those numbers, the number and quality of services available through our public health system is simply insufficient.
The opportunity cost of us continuing to kick the ball down the road is significant. It’s also becoming increasingly obvious that it’s starting to catch up.
From a human perspective, I think we can all agree that helping people in need is worth it, and when you boil the numbers down, from a cost perspective, it makes sense.
Written for Together We Can by Tristan Elliott, a third-year BBA student who currently works as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator. He is passionate about issues affecting the local community, economy, and Canada as a whole.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com
Credits: Caleb Woods (cover), Adventure Alpine, Clem Sim, Ryan Schroeder.