Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has long been a media foil, drawing attention for his combative style and erratic behavior. Now, a political firestorm has erupted over the alleged existence of a video that shows the mayor of the fifth most populous city in North America smoking crack cocaine.
Gawker broke news of the video yesterday, claiming that it was made at some point in the last six months and clearly shows Ford smoking crack cocaine from a glass pipe.
The site is currently in negotiations to release the video publicly, and editor John Cook said that he is "confident that I saw Rob Ford smoking crack in that video."
The Toronto Star described the video, which was reportedly taken by one of the 43-year-old Toronto mayor's drug dealers:
"Throughout the video Ford's eyes are half-closed. He lolls back in his chair, sometimes waving his arms around erratically. He raises a lighter in his hand at several points and moves it in a circle motion beneath the glass bowl of the pipe, then inhales deeply."
Ford has vehemently contested the allegations today, reported Reuters, telling reporters that they are "absolutely not true."
"These allegations are ridiculous, another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me," Ford said in a public statement. "And that's all I've got to say for now."
Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Abuse
Crack is cocaine that is processed from a powder into a chunky form that can be smoked, and delivers even more intense and fast-acting effects.
The drug reaches the brain almost immediately in that form, causing the user to feel a euphoric rush that is often followed by intense withdrawal in as little as ten minutes, causing cravings for more.
Physical symptoms of cocaine use include increased blood pressure and heart rate, and crack cocaine users are prone to aggressive and paranoid behavior.
The Cleveland Clinic lists symptoms of physical withdrawal that include muscle tremors, severe headaches, and extreme hunger, which start within a matter of hours of use and can last up to one week.
Signs of addiction can include extreme irritability, paranoia, severe depression, weight loss, decline in personal hygiene, psychosis, and anhedonia, or inability to experience pleasure. Since the addictive drug's effects last such a short amount of time, low-income users are also likely to resort to theft or prostitution to finance their habit.
Narconon suggests other defining characteristics like wild mood swings, trouble concentrating, and "a false sense of confidence and power."
Does Rob Ford Fit the Profile of a Crack User?
With no testimony from those close to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, it's impossible to speculate about his crack cocaine use beyond the video.
In the court of public opinion, however, there is considerable evidence of the mayor's erratic and aggressive behavior.
USA Today recounts several recent incidents, like when Ford attacked a photographer who was lurking outside his home, and when he called the police after a comedy show camera crew appeared at his home unannounced.
He was seen reading documents while driving down an expressway last year, and refused police requests to promote highway safety by hiring a driver. Back in 2006, he was kicked out of a hockey game after a drunken fracas.
Ford's political instincts seem to be similarly belligerent-the Torontoist argued that his administration "will not be guided by reason, evidence, or expertise."
Reuters also reports that the Toronto mayor has been criticized for skipping city council meetings to coach high-school football games.
Furthermore, two months ago a Toronto City Councilor asked Ford to leave a charity event after guests complained that the mayor was impaired-allegations that Ford called an "outright lie."