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Cannabis-induced psychosis, 24/7 mental health support, neonatal opioid withdrawal, and more in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Medical device manufacturers pulled products from the Canadian market because of the higher cost of Health Canada’s new safety audit. Some were quoted fees ten times higher than what they paid under the old system, reportedly because the new audit is more intensive and there is a shortage of third-party auditors able to do the work.
  • The number of people discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for cannabis-induced psychosis increased steadily from 373 in 2012/13 to 723 in 2016/17, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. These data excluded Ontario and Quebec; however, over the same period, the number of Ontario teens discharged after receiving treatment for cannabis-induced psychosis rose from 49 to 66.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada reported a steady rise in influenza cases just before the holidays, with the majority of confirmed cases being among individuals under the age of 65. In Quebec, where occupancy rates are exceeding 100% in many hospitals, emergency room doctors are urging people to stay home if they can.
  • Ranchers pushed back against changes to Canada’s food guide that will encourage “plant-based sources of protein” over meat and dairy. Health Canada developed the updated document through consultations with the public and health experts but no one-on-one meetings with industry stakeholders.
  • A person’s chances of surviving an opioid overdose may depend on where they live in Canada, according to advocates who says access to overdose prevention services still varies across the country. There are no approved supervised consumption sites outside British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, and naloxone is not available for purchase at pharmacies in Alberta, the Yukon and Nunavut.
  • Ontario’s online consultation on sex education was flooded with submissions opposing the Progressive Conservative government’s repeal of a modernized curriculum. Out of roughly 1600 submissions on the first day of the consultation, only two dozen supported the government’s decision to repeal the program and temporarily replace it with one based on the 1998 curriculum.
  • British Columbia will develop a 24/7 mental health resource for post-secondary students that will include phone, online chat, text and email support, as well as confidential virtual counselling sessions. The government has already approved $1.5 million for the first year of the support resource and may expand the program to teens.
  • Public health authorities urged caution over a plan to extract magnesium from asbestos-laden mining residue in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Federal and provincial governments have invested heavily in the project, but the directors of all 18 public health regions in Quebec warned that the residues contain up to 40% asbestos fibers and should not be exempt from Canada’s bans on the import, sale and use of asbestos.
  • The number of newborns in Alberta exposed to opioids during pregnancy increased 75% between 2013 and 2017. According to Alberta Health, 246 newborns were hospitalized for neonatal opioid withdrawal in 2017, or 4.6 per 1000 births, up from 141 or 2.7 per 1000 births in 2013.
  • Toronto police warned that a new, fentanyl-like synthetic opioid that was previously found only in Western Canada is now circulating in Ontario. The new drug U-48800 is not yet controlled in Canada and is being sold as a substitute for restricted synthetic opioids.

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