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Provincial Overdose Cohort

The Provincial Overdose Cohort is a collection of linked administrative health data on people who had an overdose. The Cohort provides up-to-date information for the provincial overdose response.
  • Available data from January 1st 2015 to December 31st 2020 shows 44,965* people had a drug overdose. 8,429 people had a fatal drug-related overdose, 36,536 people had a non-fatal drug-related overdose
  • 67% of people who had an overdose between 2015 and 2020 were male.
  • 47% of persons who had an overdose between 2015 and 2020 were 19-39 years of age. Persons in this age group comprise 27% of the BC population.

*does not include persons who did not access healthcare services at the time of overdose.


The Provincial Overdose Cohort is a collection of data on people who had an overdose between January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2020. The Cohort includes information on:

  • overdose events
  • prescription medications
  • social assistance programs
  • mental health service use
  • provincial incarceration history
  • healthcare utilization including hospitalizations and visits to emergency departments.

Health data is included from 2010 to present, with new Cohort data included every year. By including data over time, we can look at what happens before, during, and after an overdose. Health Authorities involved in the overdose response can request data access. Data requests are also possible for research and policy purposes. 

The results from the Provincial Overdose Cohort help to:

  • Better understand what leads to non-fatal overdose and overdose death
  • Adapt and support overdose response activities
  • Identify opportunities for intervention and public health messaging
  • Assess the impact of overdose response interventions
  • Understand the long-term health outcomes of people who have had an overdose

Reports & Publications

Materials produced by the Cohort are posted on the Harm Reduction Reports page. 

Harm Reduction: Substance Use & Overdose Reports 

Data Sources

The Provincial Overdose Cohort includes data on health care use by people who had a drug-related overdose, and are found in the following sources:

Click the link below for more information on the Cohort and case definition for drug-related overdose:

Case Definition Knowledge Update 

Identifying Fatal and Non-Fatal Overdose Cases 

This graph shows the data sources used to identify fatal and non-fatal overdose cases in the Cohort. 

Who is the Cohort?


Cases are people included in the Cohort who had a drug-related overdose since January 1, 2015. This period was 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: 

  • Administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone by paramedics
  • A call to the Drug and Poison Information Center about an opioid-related event
  • Physician-diagnosed opioid overdose at an emergency department
  • Coroner-determined illicit drug toxicity death
  • A visit to a hospital, emergency department, or physician with an associated overdose diagnosis code
  • Vital Statistics overdose-related death.

Overdose events can show up in several datasets. For example, an overdose record may be in ambulance, emergency, and hospital datasets. These events are grouped to prevent over-counting of overdoses.


Controls are people used as a comparison group for the Cohort. The Control group is selected from a 20% random sample of the B.C. population. Like cases, health and prescribing histories are available for this group. 

A matched control group is also available. Previous Cohort analyses have matched people on birth year, sex, and Local Health Area of residence. 

Uses & Limitations

Potential Uses

Knowledge Updates & Analyses that Support the Overdose Response

  • There is a high prevalence of brain injury among people who had an overdose
  • The risk of severe COVID-19 complications is high among people who had an overdose
  • There is an increasing proportion of people declining transportation to the hospital by paramedics following an overdose event

Research Papers

  • Patterns and history of prescription drug use among opioid-related drug overdose
  • Risk of overdose‐related death for people with a history of incarceration


The Cohort is not a surveillance tool. It does not have real-time information on overdose events. For up-to-date surveillance reports, see the Overdose Response Indicators Report.

The Cohort includes administrative data, this is information collected routinely by public and government organisations. As a result, some research questions cannot be answered with this data. For example, we cannot look at overdose events where health care was not obtained. Thus, it does not include all overdoses in the province. In addition, some people who experience an overdose and do not have a health card or personal health number, cannot be identified in the data.

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SOURCE: Provincial Overdose Cohort ( )
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