Substance use cost the BC economy almost $5 billion

Substance use in British Columbia cost the provincial economy $4.8 billion in 2014, according to a new summary report and cost profiles for the provinces and territories.

Alcohol was the leading substance, accounting for 40% of all substance use related cost at $1.9 billion. The leading cost category affected by substance use was lost productivity, which accounted for 38% of all costs or almost $1.9 billion.   

Additional findings for British Columbia in 2014 include:

  • The total economic costs averaged $1,050 per provincial resident regardless of age.
  • Healthcare costs accounted for one-third the overall costs at almost $1.6 billion.
  • The majority of costs associated with cannabis, which recently became legal, were attributed to criminal justice at $243 million or 60% of cannabis-related costs.  

The release of the BC profile is part of a series highlighting the economic costs of substance use in each of the provinces and territories. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) released a summary report and accompanying provincial and territorial profiles today.

Using British Columbia as an example, Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of CISUR, emphasizes how these costs are effecting the local economies: “Substance use contributed to 49,000 hospital admissions, over 8,500 deaths and 102,000 years of life lost in B.C. during 2014, mostly due to legal substances. CISUR is working with CCSA to update these estimates to 2016 and with the B.C. Ministry of Health to report regional variation across the province.”

“These provincial and territorial estimates clearly describe the costs and harms associated with substance use in each province and territory,” explains Dr. Matthew Young, Senior Research and Policy Analyst, CCSA, and a principal investigator on the study. “The data clearly point to where governments and other organizations should target interventions and policies designed to reduce harms related to substance use.” 

The provincial and territorial resources are the second phase of an ongoing project to monitor the costs and harms of substance use in Canada. This past summer saw the release of national estimates, which highlighted how substance use cost Canadians $38.4 billion in 2014. 

The next phase of the project will provide Canadians with an online data visualization tool so they can explore the costs and harms of substance use in Canada and create customized figures and tables. The tentative release date for the tool is early 2019.

Read the CCSA media release.

Download the British Columbia Substance Use Costs and Harms infographic.