Local death rate from crystal meth triple Ontario average
London and Middlesex County have become the epicentre of Ontario’s crystal methamphetamine crisis.
The Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) has created a new data dashboard that charts the growing crystal meth crisis— and the deadly trend is chilling.
From 2018 to 2020, methamphetamine death rates in London and Middlesex County more than tripled, and are now 2.8 times higher than the provincial average.
At Coffee Culture on Dundas Place, owner Shane Kenneth has witnessed the street drug’s rapid emergence and devastating effects.
“It really negatively impacts you. And you try so hard not to be judgemental,” admits Kenneth.
On Thanksgiving Monday, he closed the coffee shop earlier than planned after four separate incidents involving people displaying erratic behaviours that he attributes to meth’s effects as a stimulant.
“It’s very hard to run a business while at the same time, be a mental health worker and protect your staff,” he adds.
The intent of the MLHU’s data dashboard is to identify trends and help prioritize steps needed to alleviate the crystal meth crisis.
It displays five key indicators:
- harm reduction service utilization
- healthcare utilization
- treatment service utilization
“When we can have that data to measure it, we can go to government bodies and say, ‘This is what we’re seeing in our community. This is a crisis, we need help right away,’ ” explains Megan Van Boheemen, Acting Director of Harm Reduction at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.
As for why London has seen a spike, Van Boheemen suspects one answer may be a link to the homelessness crisis.
When falling asleep on the streets feels dangerous, stimulants like crystal meth will keep a person awake.
Geography may also play a role.
“Our location on the 401 between Toronto and Detroit, that’s impactful,” explains Van Boheemen. “We know there’s a lot of human trafficking in London. Our location is prime. We are also surrounded by a lot of rural areas where there isn’t a lot of support.”
“Opioid data is a bit easier to collect, because the outcomes are tragically often easier to count. Crystal Meth, less so. As a result, I think we are one of the first regions to pull this kind of data together in a comprehensive way. Which means we’re going to be telling our story first," said Dr. Alex Summers, Associate Medical Officer of Health, MLHU at the MLHU’s Board of Health on Thursday.