A new report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) reveals that substance abuse is a serious and increasingly costly health concern in Canada. CCSA’s report, The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Hospital Use, found the cost of hospitalizing people with substance-use disorders is significant, and has increased 22 percent over five years – $267 million in 2011 from $219 million in 2006. More than half of the 2011 costs are attributable to alcohol-related disorders, highlighting the need for frontline medical professionals to have access to early screening and intervention tools for problematic alcohol use, as well as resources to educate patients about low-risk drinking. This study is the first to examine hospital use by substance (e.g. alcohol, opioids, cannabis and solvents) as the harms associated with different substances vary considerably. However, the report focused only on Canadians admitted to hospitals with a primary diagnosis of substance-use disorder requiring treatment for symptoms such as acute intoxication, convulsions or withdrawal symptoms. The report did not include those admitted to hospital for accidents or injuries that happened as a result of alcohol or other drug use. It also did not include those seeking help at emergency departments who were not admitted to beds, or those seeking help from community treatment facilities or outpatient services.
The study produced a number of key findings:
- For alcohol, those aged 45 to 64 collectively stayed the most days in hospital and accounted for the biggest increase in days stayed between 2006 and 2011.
- Those aged 25 to 44 spent the most total days in hospital for opioids, although the largest increase in days stayed for opioids was among seniors aged 65 and over.
- For cannabis, youth aged 15 to 24 stayed the most days in hospital and had the biggest increase in number of days stayed.
This report highlights the importance of education, prevention and early intervention, with alcohol warranting special focus given its widespread use and misuse. Resources such as the Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral Tool can assist health professionals in detecting and addressing problematic alcohol use, while resources such as Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can be used to promote a culture of moderation and help patients understand their limits. The goal is to intervene before a substance-use disorder reaches a level requiring hospitalization.
For more information, visit CCSA’s website.