Costs of Substance Use: National Landscape

Substance Use Costs and Harms

National Landscape for the Costs of Substance Use in Canada

The following resources outline the national landscape for substance use in Canada in 2017.

This report provides a summary of key findings about the costs and harms of substance use in Canada from 2015 to 2017. Data include the costs of various substances such as alcohol, tobacco, opioids and cannabis. The data are also broken down into four categories: healthcare costs, lost productivity costs, criminal justice costs and other direct costs.

An infographic that illustrates data on the economic and health costs and harms of substance use in 2017 for Canada. Data includes the overall cost to the country as well as the cost per Canadian. Data breaks down the costs for various substances and their respective impacts on healthcare costs, lost productivity costs, criminal justice costs and other direct costs.

An infographic that shows the increase of substance use-involved, unintentional deaths among males in Canada over a three-year period. It illustrates what types of substances were involved in those deaths and which substance was the leading cause of death in each province or territory.

An infographic that shows how many female deaths in Canada were related to substance use in 2017. It estimates how many of these deaths involved alcohol, focusing on cardiovascular- and cancer-related deaths.


What Does Substance Use in Canada Cost?

Looking at the data from 2017:

  • The overall cost of substance use was $46 billion, which amounts to approximately $1,258 for every Canadian.
  • The overall cost rose from $43.5 billion in 2015 for a 5.4% increase in substance use costs in Canada.
  • Almost 63% of the total costs were due to alcohol and tobacco.

The four substances associated with the largest costs that make up 84% of overall substance costs are:

Alcohol Alcohol at $16.6 billion (36% of the total cost)
Tobacco Tobacco at $12.3 billion (27% of the total cost)
Opioids Opioids at $6.0 billion (13% of the total cost)
Cocaine Cocaine at $3.7 billion (8% of the total cost)

The distribution by cost category is as follows:

Lost Productivity Lost productivity at $20.0 billion (44% of the total cost)
Healthcare Healthcare costs at $13.1 billion (28% of the total cost)
Criminal Justice Criminal justice costs at $9.2 billion (20% of the total cost)
Other Direct Costs Other direct costs at $3.6 billion (8% of the total cost)

The top four provinces or territories pertaining to per-person costs related to substance use are:

Nunavut Nunavut ($5,608)
Northwest Territories Northwest Territories ($4,045)
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island ($1,648)
Newfoundland and Labrador Newfoundland and Labrador ($1,631)

The bottom four provinces or territories pertaining to per-person costs related to substance use are:

Ontario Ontario ($1,235)
Manitoba Manitoba ($1,294)
British Columbia British Columbia ($1,344)
New Brunswick New Brunswick ($1,378)

Between 2015 and 2017,

  • The per-person costs associated with substance use increased 3.3% from $1,218 per person in 2015 to approximately $1,258 in 2017.
  • The per-person costs associated with opioids and cocaine increased by large numbers. Opioid costs per person rose almost 21% ($135 to $163), while cocaine costs per person rose 10.5% from $92 to $102.
  • The costs associated with alcohol use increased by 1.6% from $448 per person to $455 per person.
  • Per-person costs increased by 2.4% for cannabis ($87 to $89) from 2015 to 2017.
  • Per person costs decreased by 5.1% for tobacco ($354 to $336) and by 9.3% for other substances ($10 to $9).

To Learn More about the Costs of Substance Use

More detailed results and methods can be found in the Canadian Substance Use Cost and Harms Report (2015–2017).

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