ABOVE: Rob Ford’s struggles bring new attention to addiction treatment. Sean Mallen reports.
TORONTO – Following his admission to smoking crack cocaine, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford became the talk of the town, the rest of the world and now, doctors dealing with substance abuse.
It’s been a tumultuous week for the mayor, who conceded to reporters Tuesday that he has smoked crack cocaine “probably in of my drunken stupors.”
Experts warn that his comments may be pointing to a slippery slope of gambling with his health.
Highly addictive drug
“Crack is one of the most highly addictive drugs out there and it is a stimulant,” Robin Haslam, director of programming at Addiction Canada, told Global News’ The Morning Show.
He said that at the centre, counsellors are rarely treating crack users who rely only on one drug.
“You’re never just using crack. You’re always using something in addition to using crack. Usually, it’s alcohol and it could be a variety of things,” he said.
Ford told reporters that the incident had occurred about a year ago, but one doctor said it’s difficult to use cocaine infrequently as a recreational drug.
Not a typical recreational drug
Dr. Patrick Fay, a Vancouver-based expert with more than 30 years of experience treating addicts, told Global National that cocaine isn’t something users would pick up every few months.
“It could be extremely difficult to casually use crack cocaine because it’s such an addictive substance,” he explained.
Crack cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant in South America, the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse said.
Users feel a short-term euphoria, energy and talkativeness. Their heart rate and blood pressure could tip to dangerous levels, the department said on its website.
Cocaine affects the central nervous system, increasing dopamine in the brain. That chemical is what regulates pleasure in our bodies.
It’s even more dangerous when combined with other drugs and alcohol.
“Using any kind of drug is Russian roulette because it affects each one differently. Our make up, the amount we use, all of this goes into how quickly one can be addicted,” Haslam said. He said he’d caution others to “take a second look” if people suggest they’re using drugs casually.
Still, Haslam applauded Ford for taking a “courageous” step in coming forward.
“There’s always denial when someone’s using and that comes out of many other things such as shame guilt, feeling it very hard. Especially with someone in the public domain, it’s even harder to admit to it,” he said.
Haslam said that addicts can’t resolve their issues without professional help.
Fay suggested Ford would benefit from getting an assessment done at CAMH – the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – to see if advisors there return with signs of addiction.
Addiction specialist and U.S. media personality Dr. Drew Pinsky said Ford is clearly “suffering.”
“He doesn’t deserve to be maligned. He deserves the opportunity to go get help and take care of his medical condition, not work for awhile — probably a month or so — and really get with this and get going,” he told Global News.