About 10 per cent of Canadian opioid users have reported “problematic use.”
This figure appears in the 2018 Canadian Community Healthy Survey, which defines “problematic use” as “taking the medication in greater amounts than prescribed or more often than directed, using it to get high, use for reasons other than pain relief, and tampering with a product before taking it.”
According to Statistics Canada, about 3.7 million Canadians aged 15 and older (13 per cent of overall population) used an opioid pain medication in 2018 with about 351,000 reporting “problematic use.” Most who have reported “problematic use” say they use opioids in greater amounts than directed, with males more likely to report problematic use than females.
This figure comes with a caveat: it relies on self-reporting, failing to capture individuals whose opioid use matches the definition of “problematic use” who don’t report it to public health officials.
One million of all opioid users in 2018 say they used the medication as needed, for example, following a surgery. Forty per cent of the other users report using them only once or twice, while close to 600,000 people (21 per cent) reported daily or almost daily usage.
Opioid use has long been major public health issue in Canada. During the first nine months of 2018, 3,286 Canadians lost their lives to apparent opioid-related overdoses. More than 10,300 Canadians died as a result of an apparent opioid-related overdose between January 2016 and September 2018. In British Columbia, 1,514 people died of illicit drug overdoses in 2018. Dating back to 2009, 6,204 people died of illicit drug overdoses. Figures for the first quarter of 2019 show 268 deaths.
To put this figures into perspectives, they have contributed to a previously unthought phenomena: a stagnation in life-expectancy at birth. According to Statistics Canada, life expectancy at birth did not increase from 2016 to 2017, remaining unchanged year over year for the first time in over four decades.