UPDATE: On November 5, 2013, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine about a year ago.
Toronto’s ‘Crackgate’ scandal has drawn unwanted international media attention (and schadenfreude) to the colourful mayor of North America’s fourth-largest city, but it’s also provided an opportunity to shed some light on one of the most common and addictive narcotics sold on the streets today.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says that allegations he was caught on a cellphone video reportedly smoking from a crack pipe are "ridiculous." The video was being shopped around by two Toronto men for "six figures" to the media, including the U.S. website Gawker.com and The Toronto Star. Both outlets claim they've seen the video.
Regardless of who was in the video or what was inhaled, crack and cocaine use is more widespread than many people think. It’s not just rock stars and models who have been known to use and abuse illegal substances. The Ford allegations recall the saga of Marion Barry -- the former Washington-D.C. mayor who was re-elected after he was caught smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting. And there are plenty of notable personalities who have admitted to once using cocaine, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
Crack cocaine is made by dissolving powered cocaine in a mixture of water and baking soda or ammonia. It's typically smoked through a pipe, as opposed to powered cocaine which is either snorted or injected. Crack is considered more potent and addictive than regular cocaine because it reaches the brain faster and the high doesn't last as long.
LOOK: More Facts About Crack and Cocaine
Second Most-Common Drug: After marijuana, crack and cocaine were the second most commonly used illicit drugs in Canada, according to official data from 2011.
Ancient Origins: Cocaine was used as far back as 4,500 years ago when people in the Andean countries of South America chewed coca leaves, which cocaine originates from, to alleviate hunger and fatigue, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Lucrative Industry, Devastating Effects: Experts estimate the trade value of cocaine to be around $300 billion a year in 2008, with the global supply controlled mostly by criminal networks in Columbia, the Guardian reported. Of that figure, though, only $7.8 billion remained within the country. But among its users, low-level sellers, and those affected by proxy, crack has devastating effects. Studies show significant increases in crime, muder and incarceration rates when crack cocaine is introduced into a community. "Within a five-year period, the homicide rate among young urban [American] blacks quadrupled," economist Steven D. Levitt wrote about the crack epidemic in the U.S. in his best-selling book, Freakonomics.'
Uncomfortably Numb: Researchers discovered in the late 19th century that the cocaine bush numbs whatever tissue it touches, which led to its use as a local anesthetic, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Crack can be administered by a doctor when performing some eye, ear and throat surgeries, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Freud Was An Advocate...The psychologist Sigmund Freud hailed the effects of cocaine as a treatment method for depression and alcohol and opioid addiction in papers he wrote in the 1880s.
... And Then An Addict
William Stewart Halsted, a surgeon practicing in New York in the 1880s, was the first famous American physician to use cocaine as an anesthetic during surgery. Both he and Freud became addicts shortly thereafter.
'Devil's Dandruff': Crack gets its name from the crackling or popping sound that it makes when it is heated and turns to smoke. Other street names for crack include blast, caviar, devil’s dandruff, electric kool-aid, twinkie and window pane.
15-Minute High: The onset of a high from snorting cocaine is not as fast as smoking it, and lasts for about 30 minutes, compared to just five to 15 minutes when smoking crack.
How It Works: Crack is highly addictive because it activates nerve cells in the brain that cause a chemical imbalance of dopamine, affecting the part of the brain responsible for reward. This causes a psychological reinforcement effect that can cause users to develop an intense craving for the drug in order to revisit the deceptively pleasurable feelings that accompany its use. Users can quickly develop a dependency from 'chasing the high.'
Long-Term Side-Effects:Long-term health effects of chronic crack use include heavy tolerance on the drug, severe depression, psychosis, sexual and reproductive dysfunction, weight loss, respiratory failures, heart disease and frequent nose bleeds or sinus infections, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.
Cocaine Crime In Canada: According to a February 2013 report on crime statistics in Canada, there were 7,390 incidents of cocaine possession in 2011, a 23 per cent increase since 2001. There were 10,200 cocaine trafficking and production incidents in 2011, up a 37 per cent from 2001.
Canadian Penalties: Under Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, unlawful possession is subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both, for a first offence. Crack carries a maximum term for possession of seven years and the maximum term for distribution is life.
The Price of Crack: Crack in the Greater Toronto Area reportedly sells for about $20 for .08 to .12 grams, and upwards of $1,000 for an ounce, according to 2009 stats released by the RCMP . See the full-size chart here.
That's Why It's Called Coke? Coca Cola inventor John Pemberton first used cocaine as an ingredient in the soft drink in 1886. The energizing and euphoric effects of the soft drink was responsible for propelling Coke to its standing as one of the most popular beverages in history. It was removed as an ingredient in 1903 amid growing public pressure.
Dangerous Combo: By mixing alcohol and cocaine, a third and highly toxic chemical called cocaethylene is formed. While more research is needed to determine its exact health risks, researchers blame it for liver problems, heart attacks in those under 40 and a slew of social problems, causing more deaths than any other drug combination.
'Dirty' Money: According to one study, traces of cocaine can be found on 90 percent of paper money in the United States. This doesn’t, however, prove that every bill was used as a snorting straw because the fine powdery cocaine is easily spread around and can get contaminated inside currency-counting machines at the bank.
Crack Use In Canada: The use of crack, a freebase form of cocaine, among youth ages 15 to 24 years decreased from 11.3 per cent in 2004 to 4.8 per cent in 2011, according to Health Canada. Get more stats here.
How It's Made: To make crack cocaine, powdered cocaine is first dissolved and then boiled in a mixture of water and ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to separate the hydrochloride from the cocaine base until it dries and forms yellowish-white lumps or rocks.