The 2011 OSDUHS (Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey) for the first time includes in its questionaire a request for information about doda use in Canada. The results of the 2011 OSDUHS survey will be released in November 2011.
In 2008, a Brampton city councilor was pushing for a little known drug, similar in effect to heroin to be made an illegal substance. CBC News reported that councilor Dhillon was concerned, having seen “line ups” of men at shops in South Asian neighborhoods buying doda (also known as dode) to get high. Health Canada confirmed at the time that doda was illegal in Canada, as a Schedule 1 substance because it is classified as an opium derivative.
This would appear to have made the curbing of doda use a police enforcement issue, although it seemed that it depended on the percentage of opiates in the doda powder before politicians and police would consider the substance to be illegal.
Dhillon said that doda users were spending between $10 and $40 a day to feed their doda habit. Compared with drugs that are inhaled, snorted or injected, doda powder that is diluted in tea or water, has the appearance of being a relatively safe drug, taken as a drink.
Doda drinks give users a high followed by feelings of tranquility and well being. Drug addiction expert Dr Steven Black however, stated to CBC news that drinking doda is no different to shooting a needle up your arm.
Doda is made by grinding the husks and seeds of the opium poppy. It is sold at Asian flower shops, butchers and markets to make a traditional brew. Unlike other mainstream drug users, men who use doda remain with their families, continue to work, and continue to use doda.
Doda is a stimulant that is addictive and potentially harmful when used long term and in increasing doses.
In early 2009, Health Canada confirmed that doda was a potentially dangerous drug, tests having confirmed its significant opiate content. Despite police seizing doda in Surrey, BC in November 2009, it continued to be in demand.
In mid 2010, a Canadian politician, Harry Bains was continuing to express concerns about doda sales in British Columbia, saying that anyone, even children, could walk into an Asian shop and buy doda easily. Popular among construction workers, taxi drivers this cheap and easy to find opiate is known as poor man’s heroin. It is a stimulant that enables workers to keep going with heavy manual work, or work arduous hours such as when taxi or truck driving.
Although imported into Canada from Asia through Toronto for many years, doda was until around 2008 under the radar and apparently causing few problems. Then, by 2009, Canada was beginning to see big problems emerging – addicted users had work place issues, were not sleeping, had opioid withdrawal symptoms and family problems.
Doda powder can contain only small amounts of opium which until late 2009/2010 meant that despite increasingly widespread use, there was little or no prosecution of doda use in Canada. Despite doda having a relatively low opium content it is still an extremely profitable drug in the market – police were able to seize a quantity of doda (2,645 pounds) and its value was $2.5 million.
Later in 2010, CBC news was again reporting a rise in doda use in Canada to an extent that drug experts in Surrey said that doda use was “out of control” in Vancouver’s Asian community.
Issues with doda use appeared to be as severe as for people using heroin, with addiction and withdrawal symptoms similar to other opioid drugs. People were suffering panic attacks, tremors, cramps and vomiting. Police said they were attempting to target the “bigger fish” involved in the doda market, that is run by organized crime.
In Alberta, in late 2010, the Edmonton Journal reported a $5.000 fine for retailing doda from a grocery store, police finding thousands of dried poppy heads, and doda on the premises.
Councillor Dhillon’s original fears were that doda would get into schools and be used by young children. There is some evidence that doda was being used by juvenile’s late 2010, and high school kids were beginning to show up in treatment for doda abuse. It is no doubt due to the efforts made by councillor Dhillon that tests were conducted on doda to establish whether or not it was able to be classified as a schedule 1 narcotic, so that criminal sanctions could be imposed on dealers. Until criminal prosecutions in late 2009 and 2010, doda was sold openly from shop fronts, as most people dealing in doda thought that it was legal.
It remains to be seen, in terms of the OSDUHS survey as to the extent to which law enforcement against doda sales might have limited its abuse, or whether the previous trend of increasing doda use is continuing.
Doda can be used legally in flower arranging and as a meat preservative. Legal sources of doda have come into Canada across the US border. Both US and Canadian officials now await the outcome of the OSDUHS survey to discover whether or not doda continues to be a drug of concern, particularly for schoolchildren in Canada.