Suspected opioid-related overdoses in jurisdictions across Canada based on Emergency Medical Services Data Published: (June 2019)

Canada continues to experience a serious opioid crisis. Across the country, it is having devastating effects on families and communities. The Public Health Agency of Canada works closely with the provinces and territories to collect and share national level data on apparent opioid-related deaths and suspected opioid-related overdoses to obtain a more complete understanding of the opioid crisis.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) data provides information on suspected opioid-related overdoses occurring in communities across Canada. This information helps to:

Key Findings

Based on data available from January to December 2018 among jurisdictionsFootnote 1 reporting suspected opioid-related overdoses requiring EMS services, main findings show that:

Suspected Opioid-Related EMS Responses in in 2019

To navigate the figure below, click on the participating jurisdictions in blue (data available) in the colored map, use Tab to cycle through the jurisdictions or select a jurisdiction from the first dropdown above the bar graph. You can also select the reporting year and the type of breakdown in the second and third dropdowns above the bar graph, respectively.

As per 's case definition, , the number of suspected opioid-related overdose EMS responses was .

During this period, the largest proportion of suspected opioid-related overdoses occurred among males and females .

Additional Resources

Case Definitions

Table 1 provides case definitions of suspected opioid-related overdoses according to participating jurisdictions. As case definitions vary among jurisdictions, data should not be compared across jurisdictions.

Table 1. Case definitions for Suspected Opioid-related Overdose Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Responses for provinces and territories with available data as of May 13, 2019.
Jurisdiction Reporting Period Primary Case Definition
British Columbia Jan 2017 to Feb 2019
  1. Paper-based patient care reports (PCR): Treatment by ambulance crews using Naloxone OR paramedic impression codes indicated possible illicit drugs (but not prescription drugs or alcohol) AND the corresponding dispatch code was consistent with possible drug overdose (Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) cards 9,23,31).
  2. Electronic-based PCR (SIREN): Treatment by ambulance crews using Naloxone OR paramedic impression code indicated possible illicit drugs (but not prescription drugs or alcohol).
Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta Jan 2017 to Dec 2018 Documentation of opioid medical control protocol or administration of naloxone.
Saskatchewan Apr 2018 to Mar 2019 Emergency response calls where Narcan (naloxone) is administered by ambulance crews and the patient has an assessment code for Possible Narcotic Overdose.
Winnipeg, Manitoba Jan 2017 to Mar 2019 The number of suspected overdose cases receiving naloxone from Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS).
Northern and rural Manitoba May 2017 to Mar 2019 The number of suspected overdose cases in northern and rural Manitoba receiving naloxone from EMS dispatched through the Medical Transportation Coordination Centre (MTCC) or a bystander on scene.
Ontario Apr 2018 to Mar 2019 Suspected opioid overdose requiring administration of naloxone by paramedics (as indicated by Medication Code “Naloxone (610)”)
New Brunswick Jan 2017 to Mar 2019 A patient who responded to naloxone that was administered by an Ambulance New Brunswick first responder for a suspected opioid overdose.
Newfoundland and Labrador Apr 2017 to Mar 2018 Emergency response to an opioid-related overdose where naloxone is administered by paramedics.
Whitehorse, Yukon Jan to Dec 2017, Jul to Dec 2018 Paper-based patient care reports:
  1. Suspected opioid overuse is identified during the 9-1-1 call taking process; and/or
  2. Opioid overuse or overdose are identified in the Patient Care Report’s narrative, history of event, or chief complaint; and/or
  3. Naloxone administered by a designated emergency responder, allied health care provider, or layperson at the scene.
Electronic-based patient care reports:
  1. Primary problem or final primary problem classified as “suspected opioid overdose”; and/or
  2. Procedure code: Naloxone administered by designated emergency responder, allied health care provider, or layperson at the scene.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Jan 2017 to Apr 2019 Suspected overdose identified as chief complaint and an opioid identified as the overdose product OR suspected overdose identified as the chief complaint and naloxone administered by paramedics.


We would like to thank all members of the Opioid Overdose Surveillance Task Group for their input and feedback, and all EMS data providers in the following jurisdictions: Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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