Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy: Evidence

What evidence the strategy uses and how it supports our decision-making.

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About evidence

Accurate, timely, and reliable data are essential to policy development and decision-making. We gather evidence from research studies, surveys and public health surveillance data. This lets us:

  • set policy priorities
  • respond to emerging drug issues
  • measure the impact of our actions
  • assess the current drug landscape in Canada
  • identify trends related to substance use and related harms, including:
    • prevalence of use
    • harms like deaths and hospitalizations

How evidence fits into the strategy

We conduct innovative monitoring, surveillance and research related to substance use in Canada. The data and information we collect forms evidence that we use to develop programs and policies related to substance use.

Implementing the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS) Data and Evidence Framework will support collaboration across federal departments and agencies. It focuses on improving our ability to collect, analyze and share data to support evidence-based and equity informed decision-making.

CDSS Data and Evidence Framework

Collecting data

We continue to conduct our general population surveys and update them to include sex- and gender-based data. This will help us better understand substance use trends among different population groups in Canada. Examples include:

Public health officers will work with provinces and territories to collect data on opioid- and stimulant-related deaths and harms. They’ll use this information to produce national data on opioid- and stimulant-related harms like:

  • deaths
  • hospitalizations
  • emergency medical services

We’ll release this data on a quarterly basis, in collaboration with provinces and territories.

Opioid- and stimulant-related harms

Using data

Evidence guides our response to the overdose crisis and broader substance use related harms. Specifically, we use:

We’ll use the data we gather to evaluate innovative interventions and policy approaches. For example, British Columbia’s exemption for personal possession for small amounts of certain illegal drugs for people aged 18 and older.

This research will inform substance use services, like supervised consumption sites and safer supply, and the development of guidelines to:

  • inform treatment for substance use disorders
  • help people living in Canada make decisions around substance use

One example of these guidelines is the Canadian Clinical Guideline on High-Risk Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder.

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Sharing data

We hosted a Knowledge Exchange Series on Safer Supply with key stakeholders to discuss:

  • evidence around safer supply
  • how available evidence can help support and scale up successful models

Our Drug Analysis Service also provides statistics and trends on illegal drugs and substances by:

  • issuing reports on drug trends and new substances of interest
  • sharing raw data on substances identified in samples seized by law enforcement
  • issuing drug notifications for newly identified potent or dangerous substances in the illegal drug supply

We have also developed a data dashboard on the health of people in Canada which provides information and data trends on indicators like:

  • alcohol use
  • opioid use
  • vaping
  • smoking
  • cannabis use

We also develop bi-annual simulation models of opioid-related deaths that provide information on the number of these deaths during the overdose crisis. These models help support decision-making processes related to the overdose crisis.

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