Substance use is a significant cost to the Canadian economy through its direct impact on the healthcare and criminal justice systems, and its indirect impact on economic productivity as a result of premature death and ill health. Understanding the economic, health and social costs of problematic substance use can help:
To make a case for ensuring that alcohol, tobacco and other substances are a priority on the public policy agenda;
To target specific problems and policies;
To identify information gaps, research needs and refinements to national statistical reporting systems; and
To provide baseline measures to determine the effectiveness of drug policies and programs.
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Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms (2007–2014)
In June 2018, CCSA and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research released a new report,
Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms (2007–2014),
covering a broad range of substances including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, opioids and central nervous system (CNS) depressants, cocaine and CNS stimulants, and other substances such as hallucinogens and inhalants.
Providing national, provincial and territorial estimates for the cost and harms of substance use between 2007 and 2014, the study estimates the total cost of substance in Canada in 2014 at $38.4 billion. Alcohol and tobacco use contributed over two thirds of these costs, while opioids ranked a distant third.
The study also revealed that:
Almost 20% of all violent crimes committed in Canada can be attributed to alcohol.
Costs related to lost productivity amounted to $15.7 billion or 40% of the total cost.
Healthcare costs were $11.1 billion, almost 30% of the total cost.
Criminal justice was the third highest contributor to total substance-related costs with a cost of $9 billion.
Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms in the Provinces and Territories (2007–2014)
In October 2018, the Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms Working Group released an accompanying report, Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms in the Provinces and Territories (2007-2014), featuring more detail about the costs and harms of substance use in the individual provinces and territories. The report includes a summary of findings across the provinces and territories, allowing for comparisons at a glance between regions and in relation to national estimates, as well as infographics and data tables detailing costs in each province and territory by substance, cost category and year.
Key findings include:
Per-person costs were higher than the 2014 national average in the Atlantic provinces, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the territories, and lower in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
In 2014, alcohol was responsible for the greatest proportion of costs related to substance use in nine of 12 provinces and territories, the exceptions being Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where tobacco-related costs were higher.
In most provinces and territories, lost productivity accounted for the greatest proportion of alcohol- and opioid-related costs, while health care accounted for the greatest proportion of tobacco-related costs. Criminal justice accounted for the greatest proportion of cannabis-related costs in all regions.
Between 2007 and 2014, opioid-attributable costs increased in most provinces. In some provinces, cannabis-attributable costs increased more than 20% while cocaine-attributable costs decreased more than 50%.
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The findings of the study are also available in the following formats: