Stimulant-related deaths have tripled since 2018 in Saskatchewan

Stimulant-related deaths have tripled since 2018 in Saskatchewan

The per capita rate of overdoses in Saskatchewan last year related to stimulants, such as crystal meth or cocaine, soared compared to all other provinces that reported data.

According to a report by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the number of people who died from stimulant-related overdoses in Saskatchewan in 2021 is almost three times higher than in 2018.

The per capita rate of overdoses in Saskatchewan last year related to stimulants, such as crystal meth or cocaine, soared compared to all other provinces that reported data.

That's no surprise to family physician and medical director at Westside's Saskatoon Community Clinic, Larissa Kiesman. The frontline community is well aware of the growing crystal meth crisis, she says.

Year after year, his clinic has consistently recorded 700 to 800 patients testing positive for crystal meth, leading him to believe that this number is actually much higher for the community at large.

Using the 2016 Canadian population as a benchmark, Saskatchewan's age-adjusted rate for stimulant-related deaths was 20.6 per 100,000 people in 2021. This is much higher than the rate of 13, 3 in Ontario and 5.3 in British Columbia. The age-adjusted rate in Saskatchewan in 2018 was 7.5 per 100,000 people.

The majority of stimulant-related deaths in 2021 also involved the presence of an opioid. Larissa Kiesman explains that Saskatchewan health professionals and people who use drugs lack information about what the substances they use actually contain.

“Much of the supply is contaminated. A drug may be sold under one name, but contains one or more other potentially lethal substances.

— Larissa Kiesman, family physician and medical director at the Saskatoon Community Clinic in Westside

She adds that methamphetamine is also abundant in the community.

Larissa Kiesman believes drug addiction is the result of an unhealthy society, not the cause. She believes that people who live in precarious situations can often turn to stimulants and other drugs.

Unless people have housing and don't live in crushing poverty, it's really hard to stay away from drug addiction, she says.

While drug use can be fatal, drug use Prolonged methamphetamine can be destabilizing. It can lead to paranoia, psychosis, anxiety and mental health crises, she says.

People who reach this level of problems may need different types of help and sending them to the hospital is not necessarily enough. Larissa Kiesman believes that an integrated care center with social service workers and medical professionals would be the best way to help people struggling with serious addictions.

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