Canadian wastewater analysis suggests increased cannabis use during pandemic

Cannabis consumption was highest in Halifax before and during the pandemic.

The Canadian government collects wastewater samples to track consumption of cannabis and other drugs. Antwon McMullen/Getty Images

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Stressful situations like a pandemic can lead to increased use of alcohol and drugs such as cannabis.

A report provides new evidence to this.

The document notes that analysis of wastewater samples in five cities in Canada suggests that cannabis use rose since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Statistics Canada report also noted an increase in the consumption of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

The data was taken from the Canadian Wastewater Survey in Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Done on a monthly basis, the CWS started in March 2019 to track consumption over time by measuring the concentration of drug metabolites in wastewater.

In the case of cannabis, the drug metabolite or the chemical produced by the body when it breaks down a drug is called tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid or THC-COOH.

The estimates are presented in grams on per capita basis per day.

In a report on Monday (July 26), Statistics Canada stated that “wastewater-based estimates of THC-COOH were highest in Halifax in both 2019 and 2020”.

“Edmonton had the next highest levels, followed by Vancouver; in contrast, Montréal and Toronto had the lowest levels,” the federal agency indicated.

Moreover, these “differences are also consistent with provincial and territorial trends from Statistics Canada’s 2019 National Cannabis Survey, which showed that the percentage of people reporting cannabis use in the third quarter of 2019 was highest in Nova Scotia (32.8%) and lowest in Ontario (16.9%) and in Quebec (11.5%)”.

As for the details, Halifax had 650 grams of THC-COOH per one million people per day in March 2019 to July 2019.

The volume increased to 742 grams in March 2020 to July 2020.

Before the pandemic, Edmonton had 377 grams per one million people per day in March 2019 to July 2019.

The measure increased to 455 grams in March 2020 to July 2020.

Third is Vancouver. The West Coast city had 283 grams before the pandemic, and 273 grams during the health crisis.

From 216 grams before the pandemic, Montreal saw a spike with COVID-19 at 254 grams.

Lastly, Toronto’s pre-pandemic 190 grams increased to 242 grams.

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