Meth use in Canada: Emergency room visits up

Amphetamine-Related Visits to Ontario Emergency Department Surge last 20 yearssays a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

“It’s amazing,” said lead author James Crispo, a postdoctoral fellow in pharmacy at the University of British Columbia, based in Sudbury, Ontario.

Using health care data, researchers surveyed adult emergency departments across Ontario from January 2003 to December 2020.

They found that the number of ER patients suffering from amphetamine-related conditions increased nearly 15-fold over that period.

Having eliminated amphetamines, a prescription drug sometimes used to treat ADHD, researchers believe that the majority of emergency room visits are specifically caused by methamphetamines or stimulants. Methamphetamine is an increasingly popular stimulant drug in Canada.

The study found a particularly steep increase from 2015 to 2020.

Emergency departments in Western Canada and the Great Plains have also seen a dramatic increase in patients arriving with stimulant-related illnesses, said Sarah Conefal, senior research and policy analyst at the Canadian Center for Substance Use and Addiction. I’m here.

Quebec has also seen a “rise,” she said.

Conefal said stimulant use hasn’t increased as much in the Atlantic states, with cocaine being “much more pronounced” in those areas.

Dr. Arun Abi, an emergency physician at Foothills Medical Center and the Peter Lawheed Center in Calgary, said he began seeing an influx of meth-treated patients long before hospitals in Ontario.

Patients are often taken to the emergency department by police because they are “agitated” and “have hallucinations, paranoia and sometimes yelling,” Abi said.

Meth-induced psychosis is a big problem, he said.

“If you look at our psychiatric wards, it’s common to see that 50% of those admitted to short stays have stimulant-induced psychosis,” he said.

“With no inpatient capacity, Emerg often hosts a large number of mental health patients, which often affects the flow of mental health patients.”

Kornefal said many people who use methamphetamine are marginalized.

For example, homeless people may use meth to “protect their belongings”.

Abbi said it matched what he was actually seeing. He estimates that the majority of patients who come to hospital for meth are homeless.

Another major problem across the country, Conefal said, is the use of multiple drugs, often mixing stimulants such as stimulants and cocaine with opioids such as fentanyl.

It can be intentional or unintentional and can lead to overdose. Alternatively, you may mistakenly believe that taking stimulants will help curb your opioid overdose.

In fact, “combining opioids and stimulants can make someone more likely to experience an overdose in general because one masks the other,” she says, not feeling the effects. , led someone to overdose on opioids.

An Ontario emergency department survey found that about a third of people taking amphetamines also took opioids, Crispo said.

“It’s a multi-substance problem,” he said.

“Whether it’s opioids or amphetamines, I think we have a problem, and this problem requires significant investment.”

Some of that investment should be directed toward research on ways to treat methamphetamine use disorders, Crispo said.

Medications such as methadone and suboxones are available to alleviate withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction, but there are no long-term treatments that can help patients manage stimulant cravings.

Emergency physicians can only provide short-term relief by sedating patients suffering from stimulant psychosis and discharging them once stable, he said, adding that along with access to housing, more residential treatment services are needed in the community. He pointed out that

According to Crispo, one of the limitations of the Ontario Emergency Department study was that if someone didn’t have a health card, that data wasn’t included in the study.

That means some vulnerable or transient patients may not have been counted, and the increase in amphetamine-related emergency visits could be even greater than studies suggest.

“We may be underestimating what’s really going on,” Crispo said.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on March 15, 2023.

The Canadian Press’ health coverage is supported through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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