CCENDU Bulletin: Changes in Stimulant Use and Related Harms: Focus on Methamphetamine and Cocaine


In response to recent reports of increasing harms related to methamphetamine use in Canada, this bulletin summarizes recent changes in stimulant-related harms in Canadian communities. It is intended for a broad audience of health professionals, law enforcement, harm reduction and health service providers, policy makers, and people who use drugs.

The stimulants causing the greatest harms in Canada are methamphetamine and cocaine powder and crack cocaine.

  • Methamphetamine availability and harms associated with use are increasing, especially in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

  • Cocaine and crack cocaine are still widely used by people who use drugs. However, in some areas of the country, availability, use and harms associated with cocaine appear to be decreasing, and in some cases are being replaced by availability, use and harms associated methamphetamine.

Stimulants can contain adulterants, such as opioids or other toxic substances, so harm reduction efforts need to include strategies used in response to the opioid crisis.

CCSA and CCENDU made several recommendations about how to address the increased use of stimulants (specifically methamphetamine) to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health for its study on the impacts of methamphetamine in Canada (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2018b). These include the following recommendations:

  • Continue prioritizing and investing in the collection and dissemination of better quality and timely data on drug use and related harms in Canada through the continued development of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Observatory and support for CCENDU;

  • Continue supporting research on drug use and related harms in Canada;

  • Invest upstream to reduce inequities in the social determinants of health and increase resiliency and self-efficacy in youth;

  • Reduce stigma by promoting the understanding of substance use as a health issue;

  • Increase the availability and accessibility of an evidence-informed, client-centred continuum of services and supports;

  • Support interventions to reduce harms specific to methamphetamine use, such as outreach education, needle distribution, safer smoking supplies, pipes that reduce burns and cuts, and other methods to reduce the spread of communicable diseases; and

  • Invest in low-threshold housing

Full text: CCSA-CCENDU-Stimulant-Use-Related-Harms-Bulletin-2019-en.pdf (658.6 KB)