The Opioid Epidemic


Illegal drugs and problematic drug or substance use are not new in Canada. However, the opioid crisis has brought to light the devastating effects these drugs are having on individuals, families and communities across Canada. Since 2016, there have been more than 40,000 apparent opioid related deaths. In 2022, approximately 20 lives were lost each day because of opioid overdoses. Many others have been hospitalized because of an opioid overdose.

The numbers tell us that:

  • The opioid crisis continues to grow.
  • Males aged between 20–49 years  are the most severely affected

Young Canadians aged 15 to 24 are the fastest-growing population requiring hospital care from opioid overdoses.

grayscale photo of man facing right

apparent opioid related deaths since 2016

lives per day lost in 2022 from opioid overdoses


of opioid overdose deaths happen by accident

How are illegal opioids driving the crisis?

Canada’s street drugs have become tainted with powerful opioids, such as fentanyl. This is leading to a high rate of overdoses and deaths. Fake pills are being produced using unknown amounts of fentanyl. As well, sometimes drugs that are made illegally may accidently contain fentanyl when produced on surfaces and equipment contaminated with fentanyl. You can’t see, taste or smell fentanyl, and a few grains of salt worth of fentanyl can be enough to kill you.

Are Canada’s prescription opioids contributing to the crisis?

The opioid crisis is a complex issue. Illegal drugs with fentanyl added to them are causing many of the opioid-related harms and deaths. However, prescription opioids have also contributed to the crisis. While opioids offer benefits, they also come with risks. High rates of opioid prescribing mean that more people are being exposed to the risks of opioids.

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