More Canadians hospitalized for alcohol and drugs than heart attacks, strokes: study
Published Thursday, May 30, 2019 6:54AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, May 30, 2019 2:41PM EDT
More Canadians are hospitalized per day for health problems and injuries caused by alcohol or drugs than for heart attacks and strokes combined, according to a new study.
The report, published Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information Research (CIHI), recorded 156,108 hospital stays between April 2017 and March 2018 due to harm caused by substance abuse, including alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and opioids.
The not-for-profit group found that this works out to around 400 substance-related hospitalizations daily across the country.
Ten Canadians die in hospital every day from harm caused by substance abuse, according to CIHI.
“What this study shows is that alcohol and drugs together are really important public health issues and have a big impact on both the people, their families and on the health system,” Kathleen Morris, vice-president of research and analysis at CIHI, told CTV News Channel.
“It really does affect a younger, working-age group. Men are more likely to be hospitalized than women, about two thirds of the patients were men.”
Alcohol is the main cause for substance-related hospital stays, accounting for more than half, followed by cannabis and opioids, according to the 48-page study.
“In the youngest age group, for youth aged 10 to 19 that was the only group where girls were more likely to be hospitalized than boys and that cannabis was the number one substance responsible,” Morris said.
“In all other age groups it was alcohol.”
Of hospital stays caused by substance use, 40 per cent of Canadians also had a mental health condition that CIHI said were related to factors such as income, education and housing.
While substance use impacts Canadians of all income levels, the study found frequent emergency room visitors for addiction or mental health were four times more likely to live in lower-income neighbourhoods.
The hospitalization rate for substance abuse is one of three indicators measured by CIHI.
The other two areas are the frequency of emergency department visits for mental health conditions or addictions, and the length of extended hospital stays for individuals awaiting home-care services.
Nearly 10 per cent of Canadians who visited an emergency department for help with mental health made more than four visits a year, according to the report.
“For the health system, there’s a reflection on the balance between community services, like prevention or harm reduction counselling that can happen outside of hospital,” Morris said.
“The key is to get the balance right and have the right care at the right time. It’s important this goes beyond the healthcare system, we know that income and housing and employment all have a big impact on the use of alcohol and drugs. This may be a whole of government response in terms of trying to reduce these numbers.”
The data also showed that one in 12 hospital patients had their stay extended because their home-care services were not ready. CIHI said this is the equivalent of three large hospitals filled every day with Canadians who do not need hospital care.
The federal government made a commitment in 2017 to invest $11 billion over 10 years to improve access to mental health and addictions services and to home and community care.
This is the first report of its kind by CIHI, which is working with the federal and provincial governments to report annually on these indicators.