September 14, 2017 — The number of Canadians affected by the opioid crisis continues to climb, according to the latest data released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Newly released national statistics show that an average of 16 Canadians were hospitalized every day between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, due to opioid poisoning. This is a 19% increase from 2 years ago, when 13 people were hospitalized every day. These numbers do not include people who went to the emergency department (ED) without being admitted or who died before arriving at the hospital.

In the past 2 years, the number of ED visits due to opioid poisoning has doubled in Alberta and has increased by more than 40% in Ontario. There were an average of 13 ED visits per day in Ontario and 11 per day in Alberta in 2016–2017. These are the only provinces for which CIHI has complete data.

Facts and figures

  • Opioid poisoning hospitalization rates varied across the provinces and territories in 2016–2017, with Northern and Western Canada having higher rates than Eastern Canada.
  • While hospitalizations increased across all age groups, youth (age 15 to 24) and younger adults (age 25 to 44) had the fastest-growing rates.
  • Adults (age 45 to 64) and seniors (age 65+) continued to have the highest rates of hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning.
  • In 2016–2017, more than half of poisonings were considered accidental and almost one-third of hospitalizations for opioid poisonings were a result of purposely self-inflicted harm.
  • 2016–2017 was the first year in which the rate of hospitalizations was higher among males than females.
  • For the first time, CIHI includes data at the municipal level, which shows great variability across the country.


The impact of opioid harms across Canada is significant, and our data shows that it is continuing to grow. Health system leaders want to know who is hospitalized and where, so they can develop strategies to fight the crisis. Our data is not just numbers — it represents the individuals, families and communities that are affected by the crisis.

— David O’Toole, President and CEO, CIHI

CIHI’s data release is extremely important. We need to work with all of our partners across Canada to collect and report on data to drive public health interventions. Without knowing where opioid-related overdoses are occurring and which populations are being harmed the most, it’s very difficult to implement the right interventions.

— Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada

The data released today serves as a poignant call to action and paints a clear picture of the situation facing us: who is affected, where they are affected and how they are affected. It is clear that we must double down on our efforts to work together, to share knowledge and to act. Today, with this data release, we are in a better position to tailor our responses and to assign dedicated resources to where they are needed the most. With partners like CIHI and others, we will continue to work hard to reverse the trend of ever-increasing harms due to opioids.

— Rita Notarandrea, CEO, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Our work on opioids

In November 2016, CIHI’s president and CEO, David O’Toole, signed a joint statement of action committing CIHI to help address the national opioid crisis.

CIHI works with the provinces and territories, provincial coroners and medical examiners, partner organizations and other jurisdictions across the country to fill gaps in opioid data, including in death statistics being released by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

We recently began supporting a rapid response system for tracking opioid-related ED visits in Ontario.

CIHI will release the report Pan-Canadian Trends in Opioid Prescribing later this year as part of its ongoing analytical work on this topic.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians. Mental health and addictions is one of CIHI’s priority populations, as outlined in our strategic plan.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.

Media contact
Riley Denver