True cost of substance use in Canada revealed

A new study took a deep dive into the costs and harms associated with substance use

True cost of substance use in Canada revealed

A new study has revealed that substance use costs Canada $38.4 billion a year and that alcohol and tobacco use contributed over two thirds (70%) to the total cost. The figure, which averages out as $1,100 a year for every person in Canada, has been increasing in recent years – particularly for alcohol, cannabis and opioids, which ranked third behind tobacco and alcohol.

Produced by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the University of Victoria's Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), the Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms study took a deep dive into the negative consequences associated with substance use.

Cost estimates were attributed to four areas: health care, lost production, criminal justice and other direct costs. The study covered 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

"Alcohol causes more substance use-related costs for Canadians than either tobacco or all other drugs combined. This is particularly the case when it comes to lost productivity due to premature deaths and disabling injuries," said Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of CISUR. "The alcohol industry has been extensively deregulated in Canada over the past decade. While we urgently need to address harms from opioid use, policymakers should not overlook critical policies needed to reduce harms from the legal substances we now take for granted."

Costs related to lost productivity amounted to $15.7 billion, while healthcare costs were $11.1 billion or 29% of the total. The third highest contributor to total substance-related costs was criminal justice with a cost of $9.0 billion or 23% of the total.

"We are in a critical period for Canadian policy making about substance use, given the opioid crisis and the impending legalization of cannabis. These data provide evidence we can use to develop and evaluate the success of such substance use policies," says Dr. Matthew Young, senior research and policy analyst at CCSA and one of the principal investigators.


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