Prescription drug abuse (PDA) — intentionally taking medication for reasons other than those prescribed — is considered a growing public health crisis in Canada. The number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning continues to rise.

With support from Health Canada, CIHI is developing a coordinated pan-Canadian approach to prescription drug use monitoring, surveillance and reporting. Initially, we are focusing on 3 drug classes: opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants.

In collaboration with federal and provincial/territorial governments and expert stakeholders, such as the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and chief coroners and chief medical examiners, CIHI is working to

  • Identify data and information needs for prescription drug use surveillance
  • Develop pan-Canadian standards to guide data collection
  • Establish indicators and metrics for public reporting
  • Produce analyses that measure the prevalence, consumption and potential harms of prescription drug use
  • Produce resources to support stakeholder understanding and use of data

Find out more about our role in the national effort to address Canada’s opioid crisis.

Key metrics

CIHI is establishing a series of metrics to support prescription drug use surveillance and reporting. The first baseline metrics under consideration include the following:

  • Number of Hospital Admissions Due to Opioid Poisonings
  • Number of Emergency Department Visits Due to Opioid Poisonings
  • Number Receiving Opioids per 1,000 Population
  • Number of Defined Daily Doses (DDDs) of Opioids per 1,000 Population
  • Number of Non-Natural Opioid-Related Deaths

CIHI and its partners are actively collecting data to report these metrics and will publish the results when they are available. Additional metrics will be identified and refined through expert engagement and will be added to this list when ready.

Products and resources

Partnerships and collaboration

CIHI works with key stakeholders to identify and address prescription drug use information needs, and to foster alignment across health systems. Learn more about some of these organizations and their initiatives:

Find out more

Stay up to date with the project’s eNewsletter.

If you wish to subscribe to the eNewsletter or if you have any other questions about the project, please contact us at