The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has released two new reports that highlight what it calls the unintended consequences of COVID-19 – specifically the impacts on harms caused by substance use and self-harm behaviour.
In a news release, CIHI points out that more Canadians required hospital care for harm caused by substances such as alcohol, opioids and stimulants between March and September 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
Over this time period, there were nearly 81,000 hospital stays for harm caused by substances, representing an increase of about 4,000 compared to 2019.
The findings also revealed a disproportionate pandemic burden on certain populations, with men and people from low-income neighbourhoods showing the largest increase in hospital stays for substance-related harm.
Alcohol-related hospitalizations increased most in the lowest-income areas (by 14 per cent), while there was almost no change in the highest-income areas.
Additionally, CIHI’s data showed over the same period that emergency department visits for opioid poisonings increased by 16 per cent, as did hospitalizations, by 13 per cent.
Data on self-harm behaviour showed a decline in emergency department and hospitalizations consistent with a decline in these instances overall. However, CIHI noted the data represents only a small portion of all self-harm and does not include self-harm and suicide deaths that occur in the community when there is no emergency department visit or hospital stay. Continued monitoring of this and other sources of data over time will provide a more complete picture.