Pot, alcohol most common cause of youth substance-use hospitalizations: report
A woman smokes a joint during the annual 4/20 marijuana celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, April 20, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press Published Thursday, September 19, 2019
VANCOUVER — Marijuana and alcohol were the most common substances leading to hospitalization of youth aged 10 to 24 across the country, says a report that highlights the prevalence of mental-health conditions as contributing factors.
About 23,500 people in that age group were hospitalized for harm caused by substance use, amounting to an average of 65 hospitalizations every day between April 2017 and March 2018, says the Canadian Institute for Health Information in a report released Thursday.
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Overall, cannabis was documented in almost 40 per cent of hospitalizations and alcohol was associated with 26 per cent of hospital stays, says the report that calls for improved access to initiatives that reduce risks and harms from substance use, more mental-health and support services as well as early treatment strategies.
For youth who stayed in hospital for cannabis use, 81 per cent received care for a mental-health issue such as anxiety, says the report. Meanwhile, 49 per cent of opioid-related stays also involved care for mental-health treatment.
Jean Harvey, director of the institute’s population and health initiative, said the data show only the “the tip of the iceberg” because they don’t include care in emergency rooms, family doctors’ offices, addiction centres or deaths from overdose.
The report is also based on data collected before cannabis was legalized last October, suggesting the information is a baseline for further research involving youth drug use, Harvey said.
“We need to be protecting kids, we need to be educating kids that just because it is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe,” she said. “I think it can be a bit of a wake-up call for parents and those who are working with youth.”
This is the first year CIHI has published the report.
Of the provinces, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of hospitalizations at 667 per 100,000 population, mostly due to cannabis, followed by alcohol and stimulants which could include methamphetamine and Ritalin, prescribed for ADHD.
Prince Edward Island was second, with a rate of 547 youth per 100,000 population admitted to hospital. Among these P.E.I. cases, cannabis was the most common cause, followed by what the report categorizes as “unknown,” or a mixture of unidentified substances.
British Columbia’s rate was 467 hospitalizations, with cannabis as the leading cause, followed by alcohol and stimulants.
The highest overall youth substance-use hospitalization rates in Canada were in the Northwest Territories, at 1,755 admissions, followed by 1,095 in Nunavut, says the report.
It says 69 per cent of hospital stays for harm caused by substances involved care for a concurrent mental-health condition such as anxiety.
“Females had a slightly higher proportion of mood, behavioural and trauma- and stressor-related disorders. Males had a higher proportion of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders,” the report says.
However, the overall proportion of substance-use hospital stays among youth aged 10 to 24 was nearly double that of adults aged 25 and older, the report says.
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