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Suburban Junkie

Ross the windsurfer

The photograph barely hints at trouble. The handsome blond boy is standing on the beach with a windsurfing board at his feet. He's grinning, but there is bemused distance in his curled lips. His hand dangles by his hip, as though he's too cool now to pose for family photos. The picture was taken in 1991 at Vancouver's Jericho Beach, when Ross Hall was 11. That was the same year he started drinking and smoking marijuana.

Five years later, he would be a heroin addict.


Saturday, August 11, 2001

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  • Vancouver -- Living with his parents in a two-storey, wood-frame house in Vancouver's comfortable west side, Ross - like his older brother before him - would quit high school, steal from his family and his friends' families, and panhandle on the streets of his well-heeled neighbourhood. Before school each day, he would head downtown to buy smack. One day, he would assault his father in their living room for a cigarette. And he would be in and out of treatment programs, seldom staying clean long enough to finish them, before he was even old enough to drink legally.

    Ross stopped using heroin four months ago, when he was accepted into a methadone program. He is still addicted to crack cocaine. Now 21, he is tall, with an athletic build and clear blue eyes, a far cry from the scrawny, hollow-eyed addicts that inhabit Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. His hair is cut short. His clothes are West Coast casual.

    Related Links
  • Canada's Drug Strategy
  • Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse
  • RCMP's Drug Situation in Canada report, 2000
  • Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy
  • Vancouver coalition for crime prevention and drug treatment
  • City of Toronto 2000 drug report
  • Centre for Addictions and Mental Health
  • U.S. department of justice
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Yet the first thing Ross thinks of when he wakes up in the morning is getting high. If he lets his guard down, for even a few minutes, he finds himself downtown, in an alley, with a piece of tinfoil and a lighter, burning a rock of cocaine until it curls into smoke.

    "Sometimes my addiction will come on so strong," he says, "I will go down to Hastings Street and I don't know if it's Comet or bleach that I'm buying. But I'm ready to punch out my own mother to get it."

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