Nova Scotia

Cocaine use making a comeback in Cape Breton, police say

Cocaine appears to be making a comeback in Cape Breton with both police and treatment officials saying they've seen a resurgence of the drug in the last several months, both on the streets and in drug busts.

Police say it's rivalling opioids among illicit drug users

Cape Breton Regional Police say more than half of this year's drug warrants have been for cocaine.

Cocaine appears to be making a comeback in Cape Breton.

Cape Breton Regional Police say they've seen a resurgence of the drug in the last several months, both on the streets and in drug busts.

"We don't know why, but it's become readily more available," said Constable Ryan Lawrence of the street crime unit.

Lawrence said cocaine and crack cocaine are rivalling prescription pills, such as opioids, in their popularity among illicit drug users.

A high price

And at $100 per gram, he said a cocaine habit can get expensive.

"Given the price of it, you kind of wonder how people are able to afford it," said Lawrence. "But they are."

Lawrence said the popularity of the drug has been reflected in recent search warrants and seizures.

He said more than half of the warrants this year have been for cocaine.

In one large bust, he said police seized 1.5 kilos of the drug, with a street value of about $150,000.

Needles in demand

At the Sharp Advice Needle Exchange in downtown Sydney, officials say they're witnessing the same trend.
Christine Porter, executive director of the Ally Centre. (CBC)

Christine Porter, the executive director, said needles are "flying out the door" with the spike in cocaine use.

"Cocaine is only in your system so long, not a very long period before you have to use again. So you're using more needles, whereas opioids, you'd use every four to six hours."

Porter said cocaine is often thought to be less dangerous, especially by people who use it only occasionally as a recreational drug.

But it can be extremely dangerous, even fatal, when it's cut with other substances, such as the drug fentanyl, she said.

Fentanyl is highly toxic in tiny amounts and has been responsible for a rash of overdoses in western Canada.

Porter said cocaine laced with fentanyl has surfaced in Cape Breton in the past, "and because it is the drug of choice here now, it could happen a whole lot more often".

Const. Lawrence said he too is worried about what the wide availability of cocaine might mean for the area.

"You fear that there might be a lot of overdoses. And you fear that younger people are going to get addicted to it because it's so available." 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wendy Martin

Reporter

Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca

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