Ontario Faces Heightened Amphetamine-Related Emergency Visits

Ontario, a province in east-central Canada, has recently seen a large jump in emergency room visits due to unrestrained use of amphetamines, or crystal meth.

In a recent journal published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers revealed that emergency room visits for amphetamine and methamphetamine-related complications heightened from 233 in 2003 to 4,146 in 2020. Within 17 years, it jumped significantly.

"That's a nearly 15-fold increase—pretty dramatic," says the paper's lead author James Crispo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia and adjunct scientist at ICES, who describes the uptick as "highly concerning."

"This is information that we didn't have before. While there's been concern that amphetamine use is trending upwards, this is probably the first time that we have actual numbers to fill a major gap in our local knowledge.”

Amphetamines belong to the psychostimulant drug group, meaning they stimulate messages between the brain and the body. Medical professionals prescribe amphetamines for specific conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It can also be used for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. Aside from legally prescribed medications, amphetamines have been used as street drugs and can severely harm one's life.

If overdosed, it can lead to serious problems, even death. They are highly addictive, and frequent use may increase one's chance of permanent damage to the brain and heart.

The team also found that over the course of two years, those who had primary care doctors were 33% less likely to return to the emergency room within six months of their initial visit. A small number — only 7% — of people even had a family physician.

"This is very concerning given what we know of the benefits of primary care," says senior author and assistant professor in the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC Jacquelyn Cragg, M.P.H., Ph.D. "Particularly for people who use amphetamines and other substances, there would be a very clear benefit to having access to a family physician and other medical specialties."

With the concerning rise of amphetamine-related visits to the emergency room, it is important that individuals have access to proper health care and necessary family doctors. Necessary care and proper treatment options are needed to help with the ongoing compilation.

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