Number of meth-related hospital admissions 'significant' as issue persists in Saskatoon: advocates

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The crystal meth crisis in Saskatoon is persisting with a “significant” number of meth-related hospital admissions, according to an advocacy group.

“There was a severe spike about five years ago and it’s been sort of slightly creeping up but it’s still way too many,” Tracy Muggli, executive director at St.Paul’s Hospital, told CTV News.

Muggli is involved with the Crystal Meth Working Group (CMWG) of the Safe Community Action Alliance.

Muggli says the ability to access crystal meth and it’s low price are two reasons why use has gone up in recent years.

She adds the hospital sees a lot of polysubstance use when a person uses different classes of substances indiscriminately.

“It’s getting more complicated to find, I’ll say medical ways to support people because there’s so much on board … it’s getting pretty messy out there.”

Muggli says it’s “distressing” to figure out what a person is using, leading to more lab tests

THE DATA

According to a CMWG report released in June, the number of crystal meth possession charges has increased in Saskatoon since 2015. In 2015 there were 174 charges, 425 in 2019 and 409 in 2020.

The age groups between 19 to 24, 35 to 29 and 30 to 39 were the most admitted age groups for using crystal meth at Saskatoon SHA facilities.

Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) collects data on the location of crystal meth possession and trafficking charges.

Pleasant Hill, Central Business District, Riversdale and Caswell Hill were the top four locations for meth possession from 2015 to 2020. Pleasant Hill had a total of 358 cases with Caswell Hill at 121.

While 2021 data hasn’t been collected yet, SPS Spt. Cameron McBride says the numbers they’re seeing right now are on par with last year.

“Now would be significantly less accurate because with COVID and our move towards exposing our members last to medical related calls,” McBride said.

McBride says SPS is “very concerned” with the prevalence of crystal meth in the city, adding the use comes with many complaints from the community.

“With regard to people behaving irrationally or, you know, causing disturbances in the community and it really becomes very unsettling and results in higher calls for service and in some cases dealing with some very violent circumstances.”

Muggli says collecting data on crystal meth use in the city is important in order to target prevention.

“It’s important to understand what’s happening in our community so that we can make sure we’re advocating or working with agencies, as a collective, to best utilize the resources we have.”