Like in many countries, illicit drug use is an ongoing problem in Canada. In particular, much like the United States, Canada is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic, which has seen increases in hospitalizations and deaths due to heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. As of 2019, around 24 percent of Canadians stated they felt the opioid issue in Canada was a crisis, while 46 percent believed it to be a serious problem. Almost half of Canadians report that they have used an illicit drug at some point in their lifetime, with cannabis being the most used illicit drug, followed by hallucinogens, cocaine/crack, and ecstasy.
Illicit drug use in Canada is more common among males than females and among those aged 20 to 24 years. Geographical differences in drug use also exist in Canada. For example, in 2017, 19 percent of those living in British Columbia reported cocaine/crack use in their lifetime, compared to only 5.7 percent of those living on Prince Edward Island. As with adults, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug among teenagers in Canada, while pain relievers were the most commonly used medication to get high. As of 2017, around 1.2 percent of students in grades 7 to 12 reported that they had used oxycodone to get high, while 0.5 percent said they had used fentanyl.
As is the case in many other countries, opioids are responsible for most drug-related deaths in Canada. In 2017, opioids caused 10.9 deaths per 100,000 population, with the highest death rates found in British Columbia, Yukon, and Alberta. Opioid overdose deaths are more common among males and increasingly involve fentanyl or fentanyl analogues. In 2017, 83 percent of opioid overdose deaths in the Yukon and 84 percent of deaths in British Columbia involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues.
From 2014 to 2015, over 82,400 individuals accessed publicly funded substance use treatment services in Ontario alone. Over 90 percent of Canadians in substance abuse recovery utilized 12-step mutual support groups, while 61 percent used residential addiction treatment programs. While 17 percent of Canadians in recovery stated they did not experience any barriers to starting recovery, around 55 percent stated that the biggest barrier to their recovery process was not being ready, not believing they had a problem, or not believing the problem was serious enough.