Comments Off on Crystal Methamphetamine use in Hamilton on the rise

A significant boost in crystal meth use in Hamilton is drawing concern from police and medical professionals as they try to figure out why more people are using the powerful stimulant.

Though usage levels are still well below other drugs like opioids and crack cocaine in the city, the concern is significant enough that health care officials are meeting with police and paramedics next week to figure out what to do about this jump.

“We’re seeing some pretty dramatic behaviors,” said Debbie Bang, the manager of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Womankind addictions service.

“I’m hoping it’s just a blip. Hamilton has been pretty good at keeping it out of our community until now.”

Last year (2013-2014) men who were seeking treatment for crystal meth addiction at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton represented 4 per cent of the hospital’s addictions patients. This year (2014-2015), that number jumped to 11 per cent.

Those numbers are rising for women too, though not as sharply. In 2011/2012, 2 per cent of female patients at St. Joe’s were seeking treatment for crystal meth addiction. In 2014/2015, that number was at 6 per cent.

Police also seeing rise

Hamilton police vice and drugs Staff Sgt. Paul Downey told CBC News that police are seeing a similar spike. “We’re definitely seeing a lot more of it,” he said.

Meth is a stimulant that creates a euphoric high that lasts around eight to 10 hours and increases sexual desire. In high doses, it has been linked to violent behavior and psychosis.

It’s considered extremely addictive, and is usually smoked, snorted or sometimes injected.

Other stimulants like cocaine tend to be more popular, though coke is usually more expensive and the high lasts for a much shorter period. Bang says she’s hearing meth is being laced with cocaine in the city.

Downey says part of the reason some users may be turning to meth is it’s a drug that can be made locally instead of imported like cocaine. “You don’t have to go through the hierarchy like you have to with cocaine,” he said.

Street chemists can mix the chemicals fairly easily — all you need is a mixture of chemicals from over the counter medications, fertilizer and other chemicals.

The process is dangerous, though. The mixture can easily catch fire, explode or create toxic vapours. A U.S. man was arrested in 2013 after police found him cooking meth in the back of his car on the east Mountain.

Prescription pills also a target

Police have seen a recent jump in pharmacy robberies this year, as Hamilton has seen twice as many robberies for prescription pills just halfway through 2015 as we did in all of 2014.

In those cases it’s much easier to correlate crime with addiction, as drugs themselves are being stolen. It’s more difficult to connect meth use and crime, Downey says.

“But that said, I don’t know of too many meth users who aren’t also committing crimes.”

While crystal meth is a rising concern, Hamilton faces other drug related problems, too. The city’s treatment admission rates for alcohol, opioids and crack cocaine are all higher than the provincial and regional LHIN averages.

Bang says there are a number of reasons for that. Hamilton has a “great system” full of quality physicians, she says, and that may elevate our admissions numbers. The numbers could also suggest we have high levels of drug use in the city, she says.

“It’s hard to tell if these two things are connected,” she said.

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