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Provincial Overdose Cohort

The BC Provincial Overdose Cohort consists of de-identified data on persons who have experienced an illicit drug overdose in British Columbia.


The Provincial Overdose Cohort is a collection of linked administrative data on overdose events that are combined with data about prescription medications, social assistance programs, mental health service utilization, provincial incarceration history, and overall healthcare use. Data on overdose events are from January, 1 2015 to December 31, 2018, and include appended health history data from the preceding five years. The structure of the data provides a method to measure longitudinal health histories before, during, and after an overdose. 

The analytic outputs generated from the Provincial Overdose Cohort help the province to better understand factors that lead to non-fatal overdose and overdose death. This information helps targeted programmatic responses to the overdose crisis. Furthermore, the Cohort’s products help identify patterns of healthcare use in order to identify opportunities for intervention and appropriate targeting of public health messaging. 

The Cohort can also be used to evaluate the impact of interventions in response to the public health emergency, and evaluate long-term health outcomes of people who have overdosed. The Cohort is refreshed annually and is available for use by all partner organizations involved in the overdose response (e.g. Health Authorities).

Data sources

The Provincial Overdose Cohort is composed of linked administrative data on health care utilization by people who had a drug-related overdose in B.C. 

Persons who have had a drug-related overdose are identified using data from:

  • BC Emergency Health Services (BC EHS)
  • Drug and Poison Information Centre (DPIC)
  • Case-based reporting from Emergency Departments
  • National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS)
  • Discharge Abstract Database (DAD)
  • Medical Services Plan (MSP)
  • BC Coroner’s Service (BCCS)
  • Vital Statistics deaths
  • Deaths captured through the drug-related overdose algorithm
For additional information on the Provincial Overdose Cohort case definition, please see the Case Definition Knowledge Update.

The Provincial Overdose Cohort also includes additional appended health and social data:
  • PharmaNet (all prescription dispensations in community pharmacies)
  • Chronic Disease Registries (chronic health condition records and diagnoses)
  • BC Corrections (provincial incarceration histories)
  • Social Development and Poverty Reduction (provincial social assistance data)
  • Mental Health Data Warehouse (community mental health services).

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The Cohort includes persons who have had a drug-related overdose since January 1, 2015. This period represents the beginning of the rapid rise in illicit drug overdoses and deaths in B.C. 

  • An overdose event is defined by any of the following criteria: 
  • Administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone by paramedics or overdose related paramedic impression codes
  • A call to DPIC about an opioid-related event
  • Physician-diagnosed opioid overdose at an emergency department (from case-based reporting)
  • Coroner-determined illegal drug overdose death
  • A visit to a hospital, emergency department, or physician with an associated overdose diagnosis code (from DAD, NACRS or MSP)
  • Vital Statistics overdose-related death.
Related events present in multiple datasets (e.g., a single overdose involving ambulance response, transport to emergency department and admission to hospital) are grouped to prevent over counting of overdoses.


A reference population is available for analysis. The reference group is a 20% random sample of the B.C. population. A matched control population is also available. Previous Cohort analyses featured 1:4 matching without replacement based on birth year, sex, and Local Health Area of residence. Similar to cases, health and prescribing histories are available for this group. 


Some persons who experienced an overdose but were unable to be linked to administrative data sources through personal health numbers (PHNs) are not included in the Cohort. Furthermore, persons whose overdose events were not captured through administrative data sources (i.e. persons who did not access healthcare services for their overdose) are excluded.

Potential uses

Here are some examples of potential uses of the Provincial Overdose Cohort:

  • Analyses that require linkage: The Cohort is well suited to answer questions that require information from multiple datasets. For example, a question assessing the risk of certain prescription medications among persons with certain conditions would require the use of physician billing data, hospitalizations, and prescriptions. 
  • Analyses that are longitudinal: The Cohort is able to provide a provincial perspective of all overdose cases. Regional and sub-regional stratifications are possible which allows for an understanding of potential geographic differences throughout the province.
  • Analyses that are provincial in scope or require comparison between regions: The Cohort is able to provide a provincial picture of persons who have had a drug-related overdose. Regional and sub-regional stratifications are possible which allows for an understanding of potential differences throughout the province.
  • Evaluation of interventions to prevent overdose: Yearly updates to the Cohort are planned. As the length of follow-up grows and new interventions are implemented, it will be possible to conduct evaluations of specific interventions to better understand their effectiveness.
Findings from the Cohort are available here. For more overdose response knowledge summaries and reports, see Overdose Reports.


The Cohort is not a surveillance tool as it does not have real-time information on overdose events. 

For up-to-date surveillance reports and tools, see the Overdose Data Dashboard

Only information contained in available administrative data sources can be interrogated. For instance, investigating employment histories prior to an overdose is not possible with currently available data sources.

Knowledge updates & infographics

The following resources include summaries, knowledge updates and infographics related to BCCDC Provincial Overdose Cohort. 

SOURCE: Provincial Overdose Cohort ( )
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