Codeine Addiction and Abuse in Canada

The rate and issue of Codeine addiction and abuse in Canada worsen daily. Codeine is an opioid, and the recent increase in the rate of opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations is quite problematic. In 2016 alone, there were 2861 deaths as a result of opioid misuse. This number has been on the increase ever since!

Codeine is a drug primarily for relieving mild to chronic pains and coughs. Unfortunately, it is being abused by individuals for non-medical reasons in the form of its euphoric effects. Codeine is dangerous and has addictive tendencies. These tendencies are the reason for the codeine addiction crisis in Canada.

In this article, you’ll see with accurate statistical data why codeine is bad, and the extent of damage codeine addiction and abuse can cause. We’ll also highlight the symptoms of codeine abuse and why some people face more significant addiction risks than others.

Codeine Abuse and Addiction in Canada

Canada is currently experiencing the issue of a growing pandemic. Codeine addiction and abuse are a time bomb in the hands of the Canadian government. Estimates show that about 18.1% of the Canadian populace meets the criteria for opioid misuse.

Recent studies reveal that one in every five Canadian is battling chronic pain. This problem is slowly eating up the country if checkmating measures aren’t put in place.

About 50% of Canadians wait for about six months or more to access addiction treatment. The extended wait time is because they don’t have access to adequate and prompt specialist pain treatment. It’s one of the reasons they resort to opioids like codeine for immediate pain relief and management.

The addictive potential of codeine has led to its abuse and addiction even among children below 16. Research reveals that people from 15 years and above take codeine mainly for non-medical purposes. You’ll have a better understanding from these angles below.


There’s an increase in the rate of hospitalization due to the misuse of codeine and other opioids. An average of 17 people were hospitalized daily for this exact reason in 2017. Another three percent of Canadians used pain relievers for non-medical reasons in 2017.

Over the last five years, the rate of hospitalization has been increasing at the rate of 27%. Although, some provinces confirm there’s a minor reduction in opioid-related hospitalization since 2017. Those provinces include Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and New Brunswick.

Research shows that codeine addiction and abuse are predominant in provinces with higher population densities. There were 19,377 opioid-related hospitalizations in December 2019. The same study reveals that communities with over 500,000 populations had lesser cases. The ones with 50,000 to 100,000 population had more cases.

According to a survey in 2016, 3.1% of people in Ontario had prescription opioids in their system while driving. The presence of opioids in the body significantly contributes to the probability of car collisions. It’s one of the ways opioids like codeine increase morbidity rates in Canada.

Mortality (Opioid-related Deaths)

The Canadian government gathers information on opioid-related death four times annually. In 2018, there were at least 4,623 deaths relating to opioid abuse. That means 12.4 deaths were recorded for every 100,000 people in 2018.

Men within the age of 30-39 make up the highest percentage of deaths in Canada. Opioids like codeine are responsible for 72% of those deaths. Opioid-related deaths have alarming rates in three North-west territories, namely Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Recent estimates in 2019 show there were 2.7 deaths per day for a year in British Columbia. It’s a number that includes the misuse of illicit drugs such as codeine.

In Alberta, about two people die daily as a result of codeine misuse. From January to September 2019, 458 people died from an apparent opioid overdose. 75% of drug deaths in 2019 have to do with opioids misuse.


studentsAccording to CSTADS, students use opioids for non-medical reasons. 1.8% of students in grades 7-9 and about 4.7% of them in grades 10-12 confirm this fact. Male students abuse codeine and other opioids more than their female counterparts.

Studies in 2017 show that male students in grades 7-12 use pain relievers more than females. Many of these students confess to getting these drugs from their parents. They either steal it or feign sickness to trick their parents into giving them these drugs.

A recent research study used 58 Canadian college institutions as a case study. This study reveals that in the last 12 months, 5.9 college students use opioids to get high.

General Population

Data shows that 9.6% of Canadians have at some point in their lives used unprescribed opioids, including codeine. This data covers individuals from the age of 15 and above.

The percentage comparison between males and females is 11% to 8%. This further proves that more men use opioids for non-medical reasons than females.

Healthcare Costs

Opioids such as codeine are responsible for the third greatest costs related to substance use in Canada. In 2017 alone, Canada spent $438.6 million on opioid-related problems. Statisticians prove that it accounts for 3.4% of health care costs concerning substance misuse.

These costs include inpatient treatments, surgeries and emergency department visits. It also includes the use of prescription drugs, substance use treatment and visits to family physicians.

Legal Take on Codeine Addiction and Abuse in Canada

Canadian Drugs and Substances Act classifies most opioids as schedule 1 drugs. These drugs are legal only when licensed pharmacists prescribe them. Only the person who owns the prescription can use codeine.

If the law catches you in possession of such drugs or you “double doctor,” you’ll bag a seven-year jail term. It’s even worse if you’re caught trafficking, exporting and importing or producing opioids. You’ll be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Related Article: How Much Does Opioid Addiction Treatment Cost in Canada?

Codeine Addiction and Abuse Symptoms

Just like other opioids, there are signs and symptoms you can associate with codeine addiction and abuse. However, these signs may vary with individuals based on different factors.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to know these signs yourself. It’ll enable you to identify if you or a loved one is becoming dependent on codeine. It’ll also help you get treatment early enough from organizations offering codeine addiction services. These signs include:

  • Isolating from your loved ones
  • A constant need for more dosage for the same effect
  • Unsuccessful attempts at quitting
  • Investing lots of time in obtaining and using codeine
  • Continual usage irrespective of its consequences
  • Always running out of prescription codeine
  • Buying codeine from street vendors
  • Signs of codeine intoxication (e.g. Nodding off)
  • Feeling ill when you stop using codeine for a while
  • Experiencing cravings for codeine
  • Making codeine use a priority

Risk Factors for Codeine Addiction and Abuse

risk factors for codeine addictionRisk factors are the reasons people use codeine at disturbing rates. These reasons range from external factors to internal factors. Some of these internal factors are hereditary. See a list of them below.

  • You may be addicted to codeine and other opioids if you have a history of chronic pain or mental illness like anxiety or depression
  • Heavy use of tobacco also contributes to codeine addiction
  • Difficult life situations can expose you to addiction problems based on the euphoric effects of these substances
  • A personal history of opioids or substance use disorder
  • Poor mental coping mechanism
  • Impulsive behaviour or constant risky adventures
  • Getting used to taking opioids following a hospital stay or surgery

Related Article: Natural Methods and Non-Opioid Pain Relievers

Final Thoughts

Just like other opioids, codeine addiction and abuse in Canada are at an all-time high. According to opioid addiction statistics, many people are at greater risk of addiction than others. If you know the symptoms to look for, you can discover if you or a loved one is at risk of codeine addiction.

Once you discover codeine abuse, it’s important to start seeking treatment immediately. Codeine addiction and abuse are becoming a massive problem in Canada. Play your part in reducing the endemic by getting treatment and preventing long-term health problems.

Check out our opioid addiction services at Inspire Change Wellness Centre. We provide adequate treatment for opioid addiction at affordable rates. We’re ready to receive you as you begin your journey to a drug-free life.

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