Health

Drinking, pot use up in Ontario: survey

More people in Ontario are drinking daily, smoking marijuana and taking anti-anxiety medications, a new report finds.

More people in Ontario are drinking daily, smoking marijuana and taking anti-anxiety medications, a report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says.

The Monitor survey on mental health and substance abuse among adults was released on Monday. 
The proportion of adults in Ontario who said they drink daily increased to more than nine per cent in 2009, compared to 5.3 per cent in 2002, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

The survey noted the proportion of adults who said they drink daily increased to more than nine per cent in 2009 from 5.3 per cent in 2002. 

Among young adults, driving within an hour of consuming two or more drinks showed a "significant increase" among 18 to 29 year olds, from 7.7 per cent in 2005 to 12.8 per cent in 2009.

"For the first time in a long time, we've seen an increase in the rates of drinking and driving among younger drivers," said Robert Mann, the study's lead investigator and a senior scientist at CAMH in Toronto.

"It's certainly a concern because we know that drinking and driving is a leading cause of death among young people and it's a leading contributor to alcohol related mortality in general," he added in an interview.

The data suggests that while the number of people who drink alcohol has not changed, the way they are drinking has, Mann said.

Increase in pot use

People are drinking more often and may be consuming more alcohol each time, although there may be fewer binges.

Among those aged 18 to 29, cannabis use nearly doubled to 35.8 per cent from 18.3 per cent.

The study also showed a large increase in cannabis use among adults aged 50 and older. Use in that age group increased to 4.7 per cent from 1.4 per cent between 1996 and 2009.

Cigarette smoking declined slightly to 18.6 per cent in 2009 from 19.7 per cent in 2008, which Mann thinks may reflect provincial and municipal workplace smoking bans in bars and restaurants to prevent secondhand smoke exposure.

The report also looked at mental health, finding about one in seven Ontario adults or 14.7 per cent, representing 1,400,000 people, reported symptoms of elevated psychological distress.

Over the past 10 years, use of anti-anxiety medications rose to nearly seven per cent from 4.5 per cent.

The increase could be from higher levels of anxiety and depression in the population, Mann said.

"But it also shows that clearly more people are receiving treatment and that itself I think is a positive thing," Mann said.

The CAMH Monitor is based on 24 random surveys conducted between 1977 and 2009. The 2009 cycle is based on telephone interviews with 2,037 adults across Ontario.

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar