Navigating the Perfect Storm: Online Synthetic Drug Markets & Rising Homelessness

Dr. Alina Turner
January 31, 2024
Explore the complex interplay of online synthetic drug markets, rising homelessness, and housing challenges in 'Navigating the Perfect Storm,' a blog offering in-depth analysis and solutions for this multifaceted crisis.

Last week, on June 25th, the United Nations released its grim 2023 World Drug Report. It painted a worrying picture of the global illicit drug markets, underscored by the agility of trafficking networks and a record supply of illicit drugs. The fallout? A significant increase in individuals who inject drugs and suffer from drug use disorders worldwide.

In the face of the pandemic’s socio-economic aftershocks, we’ve experienced a paradoxical situation – a reported decrease in households in Core Housing Need but a simultaneous surge in homelessness, substance use and  community safety concerns. One dark horse affecting this scenario: the rise of online synthetic drug markets.

The Puzzle Of Decreasing  Core Housing Need Rates Across Canada Amidst Homelessness Increases

While the data suggests a decrease in households in core housing need, it’s not necessarily reflecting the broader picture of housing and homelessness challenges, particularly those seen in urban centers.

Core Housing Need Decreases (Census 2016 vs 2021)
Alberta Homeless Counts Increases 2016 vs 2022

Indeed, it seems counterintuitive that even with a decrease in core housing need, homelessness counts appear to be rising in most cities. It’s important to keep in mind that homelessness and core housing need, while related, are two distinct metrics that capture different aspects of housing insecurity. And no, population changes don’t explain it as we see in the case of  Alberta’s seven main cities.

Smaller Cities Getting Hit Harder By Growing Homelessness Which Grew 360% More Than AB Population.

The Rise Of Synthetics

Understanding the relationship between decreasing Core Housing Need rates and rising homelessness counts requires considering a broader set of factors, including the rise of online synthetic drug markets.

Canadian Border Seizures Of Novel Narcotics Growing.
Seized Dosages of ‘Other narcotics, drugs & chemicals’ by CBSA, 2017/18-2021/22

Here’s why this matters:

  • Vulnerability: A Fuel to the Fire: The pandemic has driven up homelessness rates in our cities. With more people on the streets, there’s a larger vulnerable population potentially succumbing to substance abuse.
  • Supply Chain Disruption: The Local Production Curse: COVID-19’s disruption to global supply chains led to local manufacturing of synthetic drugs. The result? Potent, more harmful substances infiltrating our cities, escalating drug-related crime and overdose rates.
  • The Dark Web at Your Doorstep: With lockdowns forcing everyone online, the buying and selling of synthetic drugs exploded on the internet. Marketed as ‘research chemicals’, these are dangerously accessible and can trigger addiction and overdose cases.
  • Street Economics: The High Cost of Low Prices: Falling wholesale prices but rising street prices of illicit substances spells trouble. The illicit trade is becoming more profitable, attracting more dealers, increasing availability, and potentially spurring substance abuse.
  • Healthcare’s Achilles Heel: With healthcare systems stretched thin by the pandemic, the availability of addiction treatment and mental health services is at a critical low. This could heighten substance abuse issues, feeding into the homelessness crisis.
  • A Mixed Bag of Troubles: Canadian communities have witnessed an increase in the use of diverse controlled substances, diversifying our challenges. This diversity complicates the task for health and law enforcement agencies to respond effectively.
  • Monitoring and Regulation: A Game of Whack-A-Mole: Novel substances often elude traditional monitoring and regulatory mechanisms. Despite forecasting tools, controlling the rise of these substances is an uphill battle.

We’re in the eye of a perfect storm. The rising safety concerns are a convoluted cocktail of social, economic, and health issues worsened by the pandemic. It’s high time for comprehensive drug policies, bolstered social support systems, and cross-sector cooperation to steer the ship to safer shores.

Karto's July 2022 Release: Your Deep Dive Into The Perfect Storm

The perfect storm is brewing: increasing homelessness, fluctuating Core Housing Need rates, and the rising tide of synthetic drug markets. It’s a daunting, multifaceted crisis that’s impacting our communities and shifting the landscape of public safety. Now, more than ever, policymakers and community leaders need access to comprehensive, in-depth insights to navigate these challenges. That’s where Karto comes in.

Our July 2022 release offers an exclusive, deep dive into these urgent issues. Here’s what our subscribers will gain access to:

  1. Unraveling the Core Housing Need – Homelessness Paradox: An in-depth analysis of the contrasting trends in Core Housing Need rates and rising homelessness across Canada. We shed light on the nuanced factors at play, providing you with a clear understanding to inform policy and action.
  2. The Rise of Synthetics: The Karto Signals July report takes you to the frontlines of the synthetic drug crisis. Gain insights into the supply chain disruptions, street economics, and online marketplaces fueling this epidemic.

Within their customized analysis options, Karto subscribers can also choose to have a detailed local briefing on substance use for communication with community partners, system partners, municipal departments, and mayor and council.

Karto Subscribers

Click here to access your July Karto Signals Report

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