23,500 young people, aged 10 to 24 years hospitalized for substance abuse
The results of a new report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) showed that more than 23,500 young people in Canada, aged 10 to 24 years, were hospitalized due to substance use over the period of 2017-18, prior to cannabis legalization. Dr. Charlotte Waddell, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and professor at Simon Fraser University, thinks that better community supports could help keep young people from needing hospitalization.
The data shows that cannabis was responsible for 40% of these hospitalizations, in contrast to alcohol, which caused 26% of hospitalizations among young people.
“For young people, many problems with substances are preventable,” Waddell said. “We know of prevention programs in the community that could be working, but we also know that those programs are not widely available. Kids should not have to be hospitalized.”
According to Dr. Joanna Henderson, director of The Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the study findings show that there is a need for improvement of the healthcare system, “It really speaks to some systemic issues that concern me in terms of the availability of timely access to youth-friendly, substance-related services,” said the researcher.
In jurisdictions where full data was available, for everyone hospital stay, there were about five emergency department visits as a result of substance use by youth in Canada in 2017–2018, and 59 youth hospitalized for harm caused by substance use died in hospital due to any cause.
According to Statistics Canada in the first five and half months following the legalization of cannabis, Canadian governments earned $186 million from excise taxes and general taxes on goods and services directly related to the sale of cannabis. Although the Government planned to invest some of the revenue generated into preventative treatment, research and rehabilitation programs, Marino Francispillai, program manager at Ottawa Public Health (OPH), told CBC News that communities have not received sufficient funds to address the consequences of cannabis use on young people. “There is a good case for reducing our health-care costs by working upstream and preventing these issues from becoming something that requires hospitalization,” he said. Soon, OPH plans to launch a program developed by the federal government for students in Grade 8, which is one of the few resources the agency says it has received from the federal government since cannabis legalization.
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