Cocaine use on the rise in Canada

Dec 12, 2023

According to a new Statistics Canada report released in November, more Canadians are using stimulants such as cocaine, which may be contributing to a high percentage of drug-related deaths.

The report was based on data from the Canadian Wastewater Survey, which has been regularly collecting wastewater samples from several municipalities across the country since 2019 to test for various types of drugs. 

The report also compared Canadian cities with populations of over 100,000 people to those in Europe, where wastewater data is provided by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. 

It was found that five Canadian cities are among the top ten places with the highest levels of cocaine in wastewater, including Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto. Halifax was the top Canadian city with the highest level of wastewater cocaine detected, and third place overall.  

Moreover, the report findings also showed that levels of cocaine and other stimulants in wastewater increased from January to May 2022 relative to the same period in 2020, and early data for 2023 suggests that the overall trend of increase is continuing.

Another report released by the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that overdose incidence rose by 30% from 2020 to 2021, with approximately half of the apparent accidental opioid deaths also involving a stimulant.

“We’re focusing so much on the opioid crisis, which is so important, but people don’t understand there’s poly-substance use,” said Linda Wonitoway-Raw, a nurse practitioner at a primary care clinic in a First Nations community near Edmonton in her interview with CBC News. According to Wonitoway-Raw, her patients “use opioids, which are a downer, and alcohol, which is a downer, then they turn to an upper.”

In November, Toronto police reported having seized 551 kilograms of cocaine and 441 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine in the largest in the force’s history. “The drugs were destined for the streets of Toronto and beyond and would have inflicted significant damage on our communities,” said Supt. Steve Watts during an interview. “Intercepting the flow of these drugs has prevented many overdose deaths.”

Furthermore, following an investigation that began earlier in March, a Toronto couple is facing charges after allegedly attempting to smuggle 300 kilograms worth $13 million of methamphetamines into Windsor from the U.S. “CBSA border services officers are committed to ensuring public safety,” said Joseph Chayeski with the Canada Border Services Agency at the Ambassador Bridge in his interview with CBC News.  “Their careful attention has led to one of the largest land border seizures of methamphetamines for the agency. This is tremendous work by all involved.”