Substance use in Canada costs almost 46 billion dollars each year, with alcohol and tobacco use together causing the most harm accounting for 63% of the total amount. Divided 46 billion becomes almost $1,258 for every person in Canada. Alcohol and tobacco cost the Canadian economy and public health more than all other substances combined. Use of these substances caused over 66,000 preventable deaths in 2017, with that number increasing annually. As of 2017, substance use in Alberta resulted in costs more than $6.7 billion which amounts to $1,579 per person regardless of age.
Throughout the pandemic the nation has witnessed an increase in substance usage and a decrease in supports available for users. Policies around alcohol in particular have been relaxed during the pandemic with evidence of increased consumption as well as related harm. There are several reasons why adverse drug-related events may increase during this kind of social disruption including the changes in the drug supply, but public health measures to control the spread of covid-19 may have also had unintended consequences of exacerbating the substance usage nationally. In particular the scaling down of health and harm reduction services appears to have pushed people to use more drugs alone, more frequently, putting them at increased risk.
That the Government of Canada:
- Undertake an evidence-based coordinated approach to intox, detox and supportive housing that supports access and has limited barriers to entry.
- Seek national, provincial, and local business support in providing access to employment opportunities that will help both prevention and recovery/reintegration efforts
- Identify what role they can play, individually and cooperatively, in preventing substance use and ameliorating its impacts
- Work with all three levels of government, the community at large, the business community, and the not-for-profit sector to maintain an active network that works together to advance these recommendations