Modelling opioid-related deaths during the COVID-19 outbreak


The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) developed a simulation model of opioid-related deaths that provides information on the number of these deaths that might occur during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and 2021.

The opioid overdose crisis continues to have significant impacts on Canadian communities and families and remains one of the most serious public health crises in Canada’s recent history.

Recent data from several jurisdictions across Canada and PHAC show a worrying increase in opioid-related harms and deaths since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This may be related to:

    • changes in the illegal drug supply, as supply chains have been disrupted by travel restrictions and border measures
    • less access to supports and services for people who use drugs, such as supervised consumption sites
    • more use of substances as a way to cope with stress


PHAC publishes data on opioid-related harms every three months. It helps to provide a national picture, inform decision-makers, and guide response efforts. These data are based on complex coroner and medical examiner investigations. At the national level, there is an average 6-month delay between a death occurring and it being included in the data.