Meth takes up 10x larger share of addiction treatment in Sask. than five years ago

Crystal methamphetamine — which is cheap, easy to acquire, incredibly difficult to quit — now accounts for more than 30 per cent of people seeking addiction treatment in Saskatchewan.

Province adding more beds for addictions treatment

Three percent of people were accessing treatment for methamphetamine in 2012-2013, according to government numbers. That percentage rose to more than 30 per cent in 2017-2018. (Joerg Carstensen/Associated Press)

Crystal methamphetamine — which is cheap, easy to acquire and incredibly difficult to quit — now accounts for more than 30 per cent of people seeking addiction treatment in Saskatchewan. That's a 10-times larger share than just five years ago.

Crystal meth's wide availability in Saskatchewan is why the province increased funding for mental health initiatives in the latest provincial budget, according to Health Minister Jim Reiter.

"People who work on the front lines, police — everybody has known about this growing crisis. It's a huge issue," Danielle Chartier, Opposition critic for mental health and addictions said on Tuesday.

"The resources that have been brought to bear in this budget are not going to solve this problem." 

In 2012-2013, three per cent of people accessing addictions treatment self-identified crystal meth as the reason why. That percentage rose steadily until it hit 30.58 per cent of people accessing addictions treatment for meth in 2017-2018.

"I knew it was increasing enormously. It's extremely troubling," Reiter said of the tenfold increase.

"I think it's an issue everywhere. Probably certain areas, it's more prevalent but probably more than any other issue that I've had since my time [as Health Minister]."

Reiter said the province has requested access to the opioid Emergency Treatment Fund, a federal fund which would provide about $5 million to Saskatchewan for addictions treatment, in addition to the $7.4 million the province is spending from 2016 to 2019.

The province will spend a portion of the emergency fund money to hire a liaison between experts and frontline workers. 

Reiter said the province is working to support people seeking treatment, including an increase of 50 pre and post-treatment addictions beds.

The provincial government committed an additional $30 million for mental health and addictions initiatives in March's budget, including $1.6 million to start up three "Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine Clinics" in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

With files from CBC's Adam Hunter