I know it's saying a lot for a government to be proactive - I mean, there are so many pointless things it could be doing now to crush its opposition, because that's really what the voting public wanted. Still, outside of unusual issues like the laws against human cloning, governments seem to not really give much concern about the future. This is a problem in many respects, manifesting not only at the macro level - say, issues regarding the future of the world as a whole - but at the micro level as well, for concerns that are more relevant to the everyday.
It's as if governments have something against making stitches in time. But I'm confident that the government of Canada, in particular, will do absolutely nothing about anything important until it's almost or already too late. Recently I stumbled upon the latest thing that Ottawa will probably ignore until it's already become a serious problem: krokodil, the latest drug out of Russia for those looking for an inexpensive high. Apparently it's gaining popularity in Russian drug circles and has been pushing into Eastern and Central Europe, partially because it can be got for a twentieth of the price of heroin. You get what you pay for, though, and in the case of krokodil, you get scaly green skin around the injection site - that's where the name comes from, "crocodile" in Russian.
After that, of course, it eats your flesh; the skin around the injection site is damaged by the drug, thanks to its ingredient list including such wonderfully healthful things as red phosphorous, gasoline, and hydrochloric acid. Then gangrene will set in, and you better hope you didn't like your skin very much because you're not going to have nearly as much of it anymore.
I first heard about krokodil via an article io9 ran on it last week; check it out, but be advised that it is very not mind safe. I don't expect it to be the last time this drug gets into the news, especially not in Vancouver. The reason for that is simple - the key ingredient to make krokodil is codeine, and one of the reasons behind krokodil use in Russia is that codeine is easily available there, off the shelf in any pharmacy.
Just like it is in Canada.
Codeine is used medically as a painkiller, and in Canada you'll find it in such things as Tylenol 1, 2, 3, and 4. It can also be used to manufacture desomorphine, which is the key ingredient in krokodil. It's apparently not that hard to make it, either - articles I've found describe it being cooked in kitchens, and with a high that doesn't last much longer than an hour, there's a lot of krokodil cooking going on. It's also difficult to get off once you're on it, with painful withdrawal symptoms lasting for a month.
Once you're on it, unless you're very lucky, you'll most likely be dead within three years.
Krokodil is still a very new drug - apparently it only emerged around 2002 in Siberia, but these things have a definite way of spreading. I would not be surprised to see accounts of krokodil usage coming out of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the near future, and once those accounts start coming out, the health aspect is going to be tremendous.
Now, I think, there's the possibility to short-circuit it before it starts; to regulate the availability of codeine in the pharmacies as in the United States, where it is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside cocaine, opium, and morphine. Codeine isn't the only painkiller out there, and it's not as if it'd be unavailable in a climate of restriction.
As for myself, though, I'd rather see it a bit harder to get something with codeine in it than see residents of the Downtown Eastside with muscle and bone where their skin used to be.