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Assessing the Harms of Opioids

​​​​​The rise in harms associated with opioids is an issue of increasing public health importance in Canada.

Measures that provide a better understanding of the harms associated with opioid use, such as numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits, are a high priority. These indicators of harm are not systematically reported at a pan-Canadian level and are highly fragmented. There is a need for better measures that offer the ability to compare trends over time, both within a jurisdiction and at the pan-Canadian level, over time. CCSA and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) have released a joint report,​ Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits due to Opioid Poisoning in Canada​. This report begins to address the information gap by presenting data on pan-Canadian hospitalizations and ED visits due to opioids. ​​

Key findings of the report:

  • Opioid poisonings result in more than 13 hospitalizations a day in Canada.

  • The rate of hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning in Canada increased more than 30% between 2007-2008 and 2014-2015.

  • Between 2007-2008 and 2014-2015, hospitalization rates increased across all age groups, although the greatest change occurred among youth ages 15 to 24, where the rate increased by 62%. The majority of these poisonings were due to intentional self-inflicted harm. 

  • Older adults (65+ years) consistently had the highest rate of opioid poisonings requiring hospitalization: 20 per 100,000 people. The majority of these poisonings were considered accidental.​​

Moving forward, this data could be used to provide better information to Canadians about the risks associated with opioids, to support evidence-informed initiatives aimed at reducing opioid-related harms and to fuel future collaborations between organizations at local, provincial/territorial and pan-Canadian levels in an effort to mitigate harms due to opioids.

Read the report​ to learn more about the harms of opioids in Canada.​ ​