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Statistics on Addiction in Canada

Substance abuse and addiction are, unfortunately, all too common both in Canada and across the globe. Even if you don’t experience addiction for yourself, there is a good chance that you know someone who has struggled – or is currently struggling – with addiction.

It is estimated that 5% of the global population have used an illicit substance, 240 million people across the globe consume alcohol problematically, and nearly 15 million people around the world use injection drugs.

In Canada, approximately 6 million people (or about 21% of the total population), will experience addiction at some point in their lives. 

Alcohol Addiction in Canada

Alcohol is the most common substance that people abuse, accounting for about 18% of all individuals who have experienced or are experiencing addiction, though Statistics Canada estimates that as of 2017 approximately 19.5% of Canadians (excluding those living in the territories) aged 12 and older drank heavily. Of that group, nearly 30% were between the ages of 18 and 34, and 23% were between the ages of 35 and 49. 

Men are statistically more likely to be classified as heavy drinkers than women, with nearly 24% of men falling into this category compared to 15% of women. 

Alcohol Addiction in Alberta

19.4% of Albertans have a problematic relationship with alcohol, and once again, the majority of individuals are between 18 and 49 years old.

The Opioid Epidemic

Canada is currently in the grip of an opioid epidemic. Opioids are a diverse class of moderately strong painkillers and include drugs such as oxycodone (sold as OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (sold as Vicodin and Norco), morphine, and fentanyl. Fentanyl is by far the strongest of the opioids, up to 100 times stronger than morphine, and even small amounts can cause overdoses and death.

Opioid Deaths in Canada

In 1993, British Columbia’s chief coroner stated that an inordinately high number of drug-related deaths (330) had occurred in that year. In 2017, 1,473 British Columbians lost their lives to opioids, and 3,996 Canadians total died as a direct result of opioid use – an increase of more than 400%. Though this number fell slightly in 2018 to 3,286 deaths, that is still 3,286 deaths too many.

Every year opioid addiction continues to be a problem that many Canadians struggle with and die from, with the majority of deaths occurring in British Columbia and Alberta.

Canadians and Cannabis

Cannabis, like any other drug or mind-altering substance, can cause addiction and physical dependence. As some people consume more cannabis, they can begin to develop a tolerance to its effects. This tolerance, which can start to develop after only a few doses, means that it takes more and more cannabis to reach the same high. For some, tolerance can lead to physical dependency or addiction.

Addiction, whether to cannabis or any other potentially addictive substance, can develop at any age. However, youth are especially vulnerable to addiction because their brains have not yet finished developing. According to the Government of Canada, one study showed about 9% of individuals who use cannabis will become addicted to it, though individuals that began using cannabis in their teenage years have a 17% chance of becoming addicted. 

Individuals who consume cannabis daily have a 25% to 50% chance of developing an addiction

Though cannabis is less addictive than alcohol, tobacco products, or opioids, there is still a chance that regular use could lead to addiction. 

Do You, or Someone You Know, Need Help?

You don’t have to face addiction alone: The Calgary Dream Centre is here to help. If you or someone you care about is experiencing addiction, we are here to offer non-judgemental assistance and guidance. 

Please complete our online form or drop by for one of our walk-in intake sessions every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8 am to noon. 

The Calgary Dream Centre offers tailored programs to support men and women struggling with addiction, and also provides housing and family support services.

There are many different resources available for anyone struggling with addiction. Start the journey today by reaching out for help.

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  • Hermina Hoskins

    Written by Hermina Hoskins

    Community Manager Hermina has a degree in Social Work from the University of Calgary and has worked in our Community Housing program since 2014. As Community Manager, her role primarily consists of supporting case managers with clients, working to improve staff and client care, and ensuring that Accreditation standards are followed. Hermina was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to Abbotsford, BC, before deciding to call Calgary home. Prior to working at the Calgary Dream Centre, Hermina ran a drywall company, where she worked alongside her husband. In her spare time, she enjoys puzzling, walking her dogs, and spending time with her family.

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