Evidence base: Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy

The foundation for the Canadian drugs and substances strategy is a strong evidence base. Accurate, timely, reliable data are essential to policy development and decision making.

We are committed to using evidence-based actions to address problematic substance use.  Evidence can be gathered from research studies or surveys and allows us to:

  • assess the current situation
  • identify trends
  • set policy priorities
  • respond to emerging drug issues
  • measure the impact of our actions

On this page

National baseline data for tobacco, alcohol and drugs

The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey collects information from Canadians 15 years of age and older about the use of:

  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • drugs

The survey is done every other year by Statistics Canada for Health Canada.

This survey helps us to understand Canadian trends. The information collected is vital to developing, putting into practice and evaluating effective national and provincial:

  • strategies
  • policies
  • programs

The Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey is a survey of Canadian students in grades 7-12.

It is done every other year by the University of Waterloo with our cooperation, support and funding.

Information is collected on topics such as:

  • tobacco use
  • alcohol use
  • drug use
  • bullying
  • mental health
  • school connectedness

Cannabis baseline data

We are developing a set of baseline indicators for cannabis that will be monitored before and after legalization. They will help us measure and assess the impact of the new framework. We will measure:

  • health
  • justice
  • market data
  • public safety

We also carried out a new Canadian Cannabis Survey. The results of this survey will complement and expand the information from the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

Opioid surveillance data

We are working with provinces and territories to help measure opioid-related deaths across the country.

We are also using experts who study patterns of public health issues to help local public health organizations monitor opioid-related matters.

How evidence is used

Prevention evidence

Public awareness activities aimed at preventing problematic drug and substance use need evidence to:

  • identify Canadians' level of knowledge about various substances with addictive properties
  • evaluate and measure public education campaigns

Treatment evidence

Evidence also enables new approaches to treatment and rehabilitation.

For example, the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse Treatment (CRISM) is an organization that conducts studies related to problematic substance use.

CRISM translates the evidence it finds to support:

  • policy changes
  • training the next generation of leaders
  • new approaches to substance use disorder treatment
  • developing national guidelines for the clinical management of opioid use disorder

For example, CRISM is currently doing a study called 'OPTIMA - Optimizing patient centered-care'. This randomized control trial compares models of care in the management of problematic prescription opioid use.

This study will evaluate the effectiveness of two different treatment approaches in reducing problematic opioid use. The resulting information will be used in patient care to improve overall health outcomes.

Harm Reduction Evidence

CRISM's evidence is used to help support actions to reduce the negative consequences of drug and substance use.

CRISM supports the development of harm reduction measures OR actions by collecting evidence from harm reduction practices delivered in:

  • clinics
  • communities
  • academic research settings

Enforcement Evidence

  • Evidence is used to address illegal drug production, supply and distribution.

For example, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA):

  • collects data
  • monitors trends
  • produces reports
  • performs intelligence analysis

The evidence they assemble helps them in their efforts against prohibited and controlled substances.

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