The Future of a Planet on Opioids: Who Guards the Guardians?

Recently I’ve been reading about the reported meteoric rise across Western nations in the prevalence and incidence of non-prescription drug use and trafficking, human trafficking, and the similar stats about arrests for alcohol addiction. Distinct from but related to these dire trends, are the overarching prevailing factors of climate change and pollution. I will treat those latter two topics in a later post.

My focus here is on the whys, whos, and hows of physical and mental abuse from drugs and alcohol overuse. 

Opioids and crystal-meth are the street drugs of choice for most junkies today, and alcohol continues as well to shatter the lives of its victims. That is the chemical tapestry upon which thousands upon thousands of lives each year are ensnared by addiction and snuffed-out by overdosing. A recent drug bust here in Thunder Bay, Ontario, netted the police over $275,000 in drugs, including cocaine, $100,000 in cash, and 1,000 fake pills actually made of fentanyl. Street gangs from Southern Ontario were in town selling mostly to northern reserves. Addicts also are reported missing just about every week, or found dead in town at the rate of 1-2 per month. And that’s only one city in Canada.

The reasons for taking illicit drugs are many and varied, but the majority are traced to;

  • high unemployment
  • a culture of poverty and school drop-out
  • domestic violence
  • easy access to drugs
  • a fatalistic view of life

Vulnerable people are the victims and targets of the drug trade. Their ages range mostly from mid-teens to late 30s. 60% are male; 40% are female. Many have children of their own. Many are homeless, in a shelter, or living in the downtown cores with 3-4 people per dwelling (room or apartment). Many are treated in hospital for addiction, anxiety, and psychosis. Some are treated or counseled through community support organizations but many of those treated are repeat offenders. Some end up in jail from inflicting violence on others.

This situational summary is not new. These issues have been around for decades in cities across the country, but the point is that the incidences have increased over the past decade at an alarming rate. Local police do not have the resources to be effective in controlling this social corruption. The courts and jails are overwhelmed, and recidivism is high. And opioid addiction for example, has reached into the middle class as well, to include professional and sports groups. The recent legalization of the sale of marijuana in city outlets has brought more focus on drug use generally, leaving people with the impression that taking drugs – like alcohol – is okay. Time will tell how society will cope with the ramifications of alcohol and now hard drug use as ‘normal’, and with the normalization of high powered illicit drug use. We can only hope that the guardians of society’s victims do not themselves become victims.

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Moving on: Selling Your Home That You Built

Well it’s getting close to that time. Keeping a 4,000 sq ft custom built home that you built 25 years ago, on 100 acres 35 miles from Thunder Bay, with 2 acres of lawn, large garden, huge deck, 4 bathrooms, 5 bedrooms, trout stream and hiking trails – is not easy. Especially when you and your wife are over 70 and 60 respectively. Facing a new life elsewhere is taxing on one’s emotions. The wonderful memories will be hard to leave behind.

Yet, the kids have all left, friends are dying around us, and the winters seem longer, and relatives are 900 miles away or more. So why not give it up and ‘minimalize’ into a much smaller apartment/condo/house that is easier to manage, somewhere in Southwestern Ontario? It makes perfect sense, after months of agonizing about it.

So that’s the plan. And we have 8 months to prepare for it, which includes doing a lot of painting, renovating, cleaning out of the sheds, barn and basememt, and tidy-up landscaping. We also have to find a place to stay after we sell. Wish us luck!  Any advice would be appreciated. Cheers!

Aging and Perspective

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When I think back about high school years, sporting black hair and only weighing 147 lbs, my perspective on life was to see it as wondrous, hopeful, and exciting. My project time frames were short (as far as next week), and my ideas unpredictable.

After the air force, marriage, and university, my perspective started to change considerably, to embrace mortality as a definite thing, and to accept living on an old farm and driving 47 kms twice a day to work in the city, as the way things were meant to be. The loss of our two children within about 11 years of each other, was not.

Then, in my 50s and 60s, after many jobs and more degrees, and especially after also losing friends to cancer, and my parents to a stroke and pneumonia, life seemed precious. Time began to speed up. Health issues further aggravated this encroaching “carpe deum” philosophy, and I suddenly found myself enjoying conversation like never before. Slowing down in every way was looking better. After all, I had taught university long enough, directed several colleges and departments, written over 40 articles and book chapters, and successfully (with blips) raised two healthy daughters, plus re-marrying 13 years ago.

I still live in the country though, and consult, write and cut grass. And have regular ‘happy hours’ whereby I can take a cold beer or a sherry onto the deck, look out over the river, and converse for hours with our long-time close friends who live with us. Statistically, I have 12.7 years left in this current corpus delecti, and my bucket list might be too long. But I am not caring about being dilatory, or not quick-on-the-board-game-draw; rather, I contemplate my perspective on life in hedonistic and altruistic terms. I like happiness from doing what I like doing, and I enjoy helping others who are struggling. I find I read happy books now, not tragedies or sad biographies. I hug my wife every chance I get, and hug strangers if I feel they need it.

So life perspectives change with time and experience, and the aphorism is true…life is what you make it. Mistakes and all, but keeping upbeat is crucial. At 71, I still want to climb a tree.

Preserving the Environment: One Recent Success Story

On June 17, 2015, Bruce Hyer MP for Superior North, Green Party of Canada, accomplished a long-sought goal: the creation of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area along the north shore of Lake Superior.

This was achieved through a unanimous consent vote on Bill C-61, within the House of Commons, Government of Canada, Ottawa.

Hyer stated “Now I am working on getting a similar fast track through the Senate. If we can get it through the Senate, it will mean many positive benefits for communities through Thunder Bay east through Terrace Bay, including Red Rock, Nipigon, Dorian, Rossport, Schreiber,, as well as Pays Plat and Lake Helen First Nations. Those benefits include protection of the islands, marine ecosystems, fisheries, and threatened species, along with an injection of tens of millions of federal dollars, the creation of new jobs, and a new Administrative and Interpretive Centre in Nipigon. I urge citizens to email, write, and call Senators immediately.”

Such is the nature of social change in Canada. From an idea 30 years ago, only to be battered and pushed back along the way by bureaucratic red tape and ignorance, Bruce Hyer’s Bill C-61 has become a reality unanimously proposed by the Canadian Parliament. Throughout his political career Bruce has gone out of his way many times to meet with these affected communities, and restore and maintain hope.

As he has mentioned, there will be nothing but positive spin-off effects from this legislation. Most of these communities currently suffer from slow or no-growth economies, and tourism particularly, will change that reality. I can envisage research stations being set up, hiking trails being marked out, and vastly increased tourist traffic among the pristine islands and shores – all of which will benefit the respective towns and villages spread across 300 km of the Trans-Canada Highway.

I salute you Mr. Hyer for your perseverance and loyalty to the thousands of people along the north shore who have shared your dream. Canada is now a much better place.