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Drug use in Canada - Statistics & Facts

Like in many countries, illicit drug use is an ongoing problem in Canada. In particular, much like the United States, Canada is currently experiencing an opioid crisis, which has seen increases in hospitalizations and deaths due to heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. As of 2020, around 25 percent of Canadians stated they felt opioid addiction, overdose, and death in Canada was a crisis, while 44 percent believed it to be a serious problem. Almost 18 percent of Canadians report that they have used an illegal drug at some point in their lifetime, with hallucinogens being the most used illegal drug, followed by cocaine/crack and ecstasy. When cannabis was still considered an illicit drug in the country, it was by far the most used illegal drug, with 42 percent of the population in Canada stating they have used cannabis at some point in their life. However, Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2018.

Most commonly used illicit drugs

Illicit drug use in Canada is more common among males than females and among those aged 20 to 24 years. Geographical differences in drug use also exist in Canada. For example, in 2019, around 9.2 percent of those living in Quebec reported cocaine/crack use in their lifetime, compared to only 6.2 percent of those living on Prince Edward Island. Among teenagers, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug. Although recreational cannabis has been legalized in Canada, each province has a minimum age of use, which ranges from 18 to 21 years. Dextromethorphan, or couch syrup, is the most common medication teenagers use to get high with around six percent of students in grades 7 to 12 reporting that they had used dextromethorphan to get high in the past year as of 2019.

Drug overdose deaths

As is the case in many other countries, opioids are responsible for most drug-related deaths in Canada. In 2020, opioids caused 17 deaths per 100,000 population, with the highest death rates found in British Columbia and Alberta. Opioid overdose deaths are more common among males and increasingly involve fentanyl or fentanyl analogues. In 2020, around 91 percent of opioid overdose deaths in British Columbia and 88 percent of deaths in Alberta involved fentanyl.


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