New data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information report (New window) (CIHI).
From March 2020 to June 2021, emergency room visits due to the use of various substances (alcohol, opioids, cocaine, cannabis, etc.) decreased by 2%. In contrast, hospitalizations increased by 9% (16,000 more hospitalizations, compared to the pre-pandemic period), while they decreased for most conditions during this period.
The most notable increase in hospitalizations was observed between October 2020 and June 2021, at the height of last winter’s wave.
The number of emergency room visits for substance use increased particularly in Saskatchewan (21%) and Prince Edward Island (39%). As for hospitalizations, they increased more in Manitoba (19%) and Alberta (16%).
According to CIHI data, most of the increase was attributable to harms caused by the use of opioids and cannabis.
Between October 2020 and June 2021, emergency room visits related to opioid use increased by 36%; hospitalizations, by 30%. This increase particularly affected men, as well as the provinces of Saskatchewan (58%), Prince Edward Island (57%) and British Columbia (40%).
In absolute numbers, Ontario saw the largest increase with almost 5,500 more emergency room visits than before the pandemic, followed by Alberta with more than 3,100 more visits and Columbia. British with over 2,200 additional visits.
Between October 2020 and June 2021, the number of emergency department visits and the number of hospitalizations related to cannabis use increased by 14%. This increase was higher for women than for men.
On the other hand, the number of emergency room visits due to alcohol-related harm fell by almost 10%. The decline is particularly significant among young people, ie 36% among 10 to 19 year olds and 18% among 20 to 29 year olds. This decline can be attributed in part to the closure of bars and restaurants, says CIHI.
However, hospitalizations for alcohol-related harm increased by 10%, and even more among young people aged 30 to 39 (22%). CIHI records 4,300 hospital stays for chronic alcohol-related conditions, and almost 8,000 additional hospitalizations for mental and behavioral disorders related to alcohol use.
The increase in hospitalizations due to harms caused by substance use was almost three times higher among those with lower incomes (13%) than among those with higher income (5%).
In addition, the number of emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries increased by 10% among girls and women aged 10 to 24, mainly from October 2020 to June 2021; the number of hospitalizations increased by 12%.
Girls and women aged 10 to 24 accounted for almost 40% of emergency department visits and over 30% of self-inflicted injury hospitalizations from March 2020 to June 2021.
These data are consistent with various surveys conducted during the pandemic on mental health and substance use.
According to the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (New window), 30% of respondents indicated consuming more alcohol, and 40%, more cannabis. At least 5% of respondents said they had serious suicidal thoughts.