WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s health minister says there is evidence that people with addictions in the province are turning to methamphetamines.
“Clearly there is evidence that people are migrating to meth — it is cheap, it is easy to produce, it is widely available in our communities,” Cameron Friesen said Tuesday.
An advisory note to the minister of health obtained by the Manitoba New Democratic Party through a freedom-of-information request said the number of people entering treatment at publicly funded centres for meth addiction had increased 700 per cent since 2012 — from 102 to 744.
It also showed Addictions Foundation of Manitoba’s numbers for people seeking help for amphetamine use jumped from 3.8 per cent to 8.5 per cent between 2014 and 2016.
“There needs to be more targeted interventions on meth,” NDP opposition Leader Wab Kinew said.
Winnipeg’s police chief has said the skyrocketing use of methamphetamine is creating a crisis for police, health care services and addictions treatment centres.
The note said meth is the main reason for non-medical detox, overtaking alcohol, for women at Main Street Project and the second most common reason for detox for men.
Numbers from Winnipeg’s health authority show there has been a 1,200 per cent rise in people going to hospitals because of methamphetamine — from 12 in April 2013 to 218 meth-related visits in April 2018.
Kinew called on Premier Brian Pallister to recognize that meth use has become a crisis. He said the government should create a meth-focused strategy and support a safe consumption site.
A Street Connections survey in 2016-17 found that more than 50 per cent of injection drug users were using meth, an increase from six per cent in 2006.
“The investments we have seen so far are not keeping pace,” Kinew said.
Friesen said meth addiction is a complex issue creating challenges across Canada.
He said it has the full attention of the government and pointed to the newly opened Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinics and additional beds for patients with addictions at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre and the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.
But Friesen added he doesn’t think there is such a thing as a safe injection site for methamphetamines.
“This is something we don’t want people to be doing, however I want to be clear there is no good option we are taking off the table.”