Substance use is costing six Canadian provinces over $1 billion each

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Ottawa, November 14, 2018 — In each of the provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the cost of substance use in 2014 surpassed $1 billion dollars.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), in collaboration with the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), released substance use costs by province and territory. This comprehensive study examined the costs and harms associated with substance use.

Estimates span four broad areas — healthcare, lost productivity, criminal justice and other direct costs — and cover a range of substances including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, opioids and other substances. Lost productivity due to premature death and disability related to substance use accounted for the greatest costs in all the provinces and territories. Alcohol or tobacco was responsible for the largest proportion of costs and harms in all provinces and territories assessed. The following table lists the leading costs related to substance use in each province and territory.

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“The release of these provincial and territorial estimates clearly describe the costs and harms associated with substance use in each province and territory,” explains Dr. Matthew Young, senior research and policy analyst at CCSA and a principal investigator on the study. “The data clearly point to where governments and other organizations should target interventions and policies designed to reduce harms related to substance use.”

Using British Columbia as an example, Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of CISUR and the second principal investigator on the study, emphasizes how these costs are effecting the local economies: “Substance use contributed to 49,000 hospital admissions, over 8,500 deaths and 102,000 years of life lost in B.C. during 2014, mostly due to legal substances. CISUR is working with CCSA to update these estimates to 2016 and with the B.C. Ministry of Health to report regional variation across the province.”

The provincial and territorial resources released today are the second phase of an ongoing project to monitor the costs and harms of substance use in Canada. This past summer saw the release of national estimates that highlighted how substance use in Canada costs Canadians $38.4 billion in 2014.

The next phase of the project will provide Canadians with an online data visualization tool so they can explore the costs and harms of substance use in Canada and create customized figures and tables. The tentative release date for the tool is early 2019.

An Act of Parliament with all-party support established the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction in 1988. A trusted counsel, we provide national guidance to decision makers by harnessing the power of research, curating knowledge and bringing together diverse perspectives. A financial contribution from Health Canada makes CCSA activities and products possible. The views of CCSA do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada.

The University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, formerly the Centre for Addictions Research of BC, is a network of individuals and groups dedicated to the study of substance use and addiction in support of community-wide efforts to promote health and reduce harm. CISUR’s research is used to inform a broad range of projects, reports, publications and initiatives aimed at providing all people in British Columbia and beyond with access to happier, healthier lives, whether they use substances or not.


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