(Black Press file photo)

Cannabis, booze most common causes of youth substance-use hospitalizations: report

About 23,500 young people were hospitalized for harm caused by substance use over one year in Canada

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 on Thursday.

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.”

RELATED: Sexting teens at risk of depression and substance abuse, Canadian study says

This is the first year CIHI has published the report.

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.

Tracy Masters of Campbell River, B.C., said her daughter began using cannabis, alcohol and ecstasy at age 14 and ended up in the emergency department before going to seven treatment centres and a year of rehabilitation that had her at her healthiest in years.

However, Elann Masters relapsed six weeks later and died in March at age 30 after returning to alcohol and methadone, her mother said.

Masters said she took her daughter to the emergency department several times, starting at age 16, but she was always released when she should have been hospitalized before her addiction spiralled out of control.

“It led to many nights in cells, through the RCMP system, many nights in emergency for overdose, psych wards. But never lengthy stays and that’s been something I’ve been advocating for. There’s all of these gaps in between these systems. Just because someone comes out of their high and they’re sober, they’re released out of emergency or the psych ward. They need help.”

READ MORE: Health Canada warns against giving opioid-containing cough, cold meds to youth

Dr. Quynh Doan, a pediatric emergency-room physician at BC Children’s Hospital, said youth with substance use issues are typically admitted to hospital for detox or treatment on a substitute drug or admitted to a psychiatric ward for mental-health issues.

“In kids, we are just starting that kind of therapy,” she said of substitution treatment. “We don’t have a large number of detox programs like we have for adults. We have to hospitalize them to initiate care.”

However, while most families are receptive to care in hospital, youth sometimes refuse to consent to treatment, Doan said. Laws in various provinces allow adolescents to make their own decisions, she adds, creating a “grey area” that requires care teams to consider factors such as youths’ mental capacity, effects of any mental-health issues and whether they are still intoxicated.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: 12 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

Protesters rallied against Coastal GasLink pipeline

Protesters block entrance to government building in support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Indigenous LNG supporters chide human rights advocates over pipeline comments

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre path

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Unist’ot’en requesting Environmental Assessment Office withhold CGL construction permits

The camp says CGL never mentioned healing centre in report to Environmental Assessment Office

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Theo the 800-pound pig trimmed down and still looking for love on Vancouver Island

“He’s doing really well, lost quite a few pounds and can run now.”

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Most Read