A joint response to addressing the complex opioid crisis

The federal government has identified opioids as a complex health and social issue with devastating consequences for individuals, families and communities.

In 2015, Health Canada committed to giving CIHI more than $4 million in funding over 5 years to develop a national monitoring and surveillance program for prescription drug abuse (PDA).

Last month, in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, we released our first PDA report, Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits Due to Opioid Poisoning in Canada. The findings show that 13 Canadians are hospitalized each day from opioids. Though all age groups are affected by harms related to opioids, seniors were highlighted as the age group that consistently had the highest rates of hospitalization, while youth age 15 to 24 had the fastest rate of growth for hospitalizations.

CIHI furthered its commitment to address the issue at the recent Opioid Conference and Summit in Ottawa. The objective of the 2-day event was to identify specific actions to address the growing opioid crisis in Canada. CIHI’s president and CEO David O’Toole signed a statement committing our organization to several activities in response to the crisis.

CIHI’s president and CEO David O’Toole signing a commitment in a joint statement of action to address Canada’s opioid crisis.  

CIHI’s president and CEO David O’Toole signing a commitment in a joint statement of action to address Canada’s opioid crisis. 

Commitment statement

CIHI commits to continuing to contribute to the development of a pan-Canadian prescription opioid surveillance system and to the national evidence base on opioid use and related harms. To that end:

By November 2017: Developing key metrics on the prevalence, consumption and harms of opioid misuse and to publicly report on an ongoing basis

  • The number of people receiving opioids per 1,000 population;
  • The number of defined daily doses (DDDs) of opioids per 1,000 population;
  • The number of hospital admissions due to opioid poisonings; and
  • The number of emergency department visits due to opioid poisonings.

By August 2017: Collaborating with provincial/territorial chief coroners and medical examiners to release recommendations for the investigation and reporting of drug-related deaths. These recommendations will improve the quality of data collection and will increase the Canadian evidence base on the use and harms of opioids.

By November 2018: Begin to publicly report on an ongoing basis the number of opioid-related deaths.

Hosted by the federal Minister of Health, the Honourable Jane Philpott, and the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Honourable Eric Hoskins, the event brought together representatives from Health Canada, several provinces and territories, and health care organizations and associations, as well as individuals directly affected by opioid use. Many of these stakeholders also signed commitments to address the opioid crisis starting now and into the next 2 years.

“There is no one solution that can fix the opioid crisis. Addressing this issue will require collaboration between all partners to determine how to reduce harms, provide public education and prescribe opioids safely,” said Paul Sajan, manager of Prescription Drug Abuse at CIHI. “We look forward to our continued work with provincial partners and other organizations to provide data to better understand the use of opioids in Canada and prevent harms.”

Our next report on prescription drug abuse will focus on consumption. For more information, visit the Prescription Drug Abuse web page.