Harms due to substance use continue to have a profound effect on Canadian healthcare systems. Substance use led to $13.4 billion in healthcare costs in 2020 (the latest year for which data are available), according to our new Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms (CSUCH) report. This accounts for 27.3% of the overall cost of $49.1 billion,
Healthcare costs include hospitalizations, day surgeries, emergency department visits, paramedic services, specialized treatment for substance use disorders, physician time and prescription drugs.
Other key healthcare findings in the report include:
- Substance use was responsible for nearly 74,000 deaths in 2020 — more than 200 lives lost each day.
- Alcohol ($6.3 billion) and tobacco ($5.4 billion) contributed about 87% of the total healthcare costs related to substance use. These are two of the three substances legally available in Canada at the time.
- While per-person healthcare costs attributable to alcohol rose 40.5% between 2007 and 2020 (from $117 to $165), per-person healthcare costs associated with tobacco use decreased 14.5% (from $167 to $143).
- Opioids use accounted for the third-highest healthcare costs ($519 million or 3.9%).
- Overall healthcare costs related to substance use declined during the first year of the pandemic. This was likely due to shifts in access to and capacity of healthcare services during the pandemic.
More data on the costs and harms related to substance use in Canada can be found on the CSUCH website.