Substance use in the general population

A graph of substance use in BC

According to data from the Canadian alcohol and drug use monitoring survey (2011-12) and the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (2013-15), patterns of substance use that are associated with increased risks and harms have been increasing in BC, with the exception of smoking.

For more detailed analysis, see the substance-specific sub-sections. For details on past years, read our 2008-2012 prevalence reports for alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes and other drugsalcohol, cannabis, cigarettes and RX drugs, or cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and other drugs in BC and Canada.


This data is drawn from the general population surveys component of the BC alcohol and other drug monitoring project, which seeks to help identify broad patterns of low- to moderate-risk use of alcohol and other drugs.

rates of alcohol consumption that causes chronic harms in canada and bc

rates of alcohol consumption that causes acute harms in canada and bc

While drinking at levels that cause both acute and chronic harms (i.e., drinking above the upper limits for low-risk consumption as recommended by the Canadian Low Risk Drinking Guidelines) have risen nationally and provincially since 2011, rates in British Columbia surpassed the national average in 2013. This has coincided with an overall increase in alcohol consumption in BC.


smoking rates in bc and canada

In both BC and other provinces of Canada, smoking rates continue to decline, falling by about 4% both provincially and nationally. BC continues to have a lower rate of smokers than the national average.


rates of cannabis consumption in bc and canada

In both BC and other provinces of Canada, reported rates of cannabis use have risen since 2011. A higher percentage of British Columbians (just over 17%) reported consuming cannabis use in the past year than the national average (just over 12%). Cannabis use in BC appears to be climbing at a higher rate than the Canadian average, as the province saw a 5% increase in past-year use between 2011 and 2015, compared to a 3% increase across the country.


rates of illicit substance use in bc and canada

Rates of illicit substance use (excluding cannabis) have risen in BC and across Canada since 2011, with provincial rates reported at almost twice that of the national average in 2015 (4.3% of the total population aged 15+ versus 2.3% nationally).