Ontario Opioid Drug Observatory

In 2017, the ODPRN was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) to establish an Ontario Opioid Drug Observatory. This observatory aims to measure, assess and evaluate ongoing use of prescription opioids, opioid-related overdoses, and opioid-related drug policy. The work of the observatory will inform the development of current and future policy in Ontario.

The ODPRN has conducted important research in this area since 2008 which has helped inform policy in the area [learn more about past opioid research here]. Most research conducted in this area in Ontario has been limited to studying government-reimbursed prescriptions. However, because most Canadians do not receive publicly-funded drug coverage, we have had large gaps in our understanding of opioid prescribing and its consequences.


The introduction of Ontario’s Narcotic Monitoring System (NMS) in 2012, which captures all opioid prescriptions in Ontario regardless of payer, offers a novel opportunity to explore opioid prescribing of the full Ontario population. Linkage of this dataset to a broad repository of health care data (e.g. hospital records and physician visits) enables us to:

  • Describe provincial patterns of opioid prescribing
  • Evaluate the real-world impact of existing programs
  • Quantify indicators of inappropriate prescribing
  • Identify populations at highest risk of overdose and death
  • Inform policies likely to impact this crisis

New Research

Changing circumstances surrounding opioid-related deaths in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the midst of the ongoing epidemic of opioid-related deaths in Canada. Public health restrictions introduced in Ontario to reduce the spread of COVID-19 resulted in reduced service levels for health and social services that provide care to people who use drugs. Despite the intention to reduce the impact of COVID-19, there was also concern that these measures would lead to unintended harms.

The ODPRN, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario/Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OCC/OFPS) and Public Health Ontario (PHO) have developed a new report describing patterns surrounding opioid-related deaths that occurred in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic up to the end of December 2020. This report updates the data provided in a preliminary report released in November 2020 describing patterns that occurred during the first three months of the pandemic.

Access the full article and associated resource:


Ontario Prescription Opioid Tool

The Ontario Prescription Opioid Tool allows public access to data related to indicators for opioid prescribing in the province from 2012 onwards. It uses data from the Narcotics Monitoring System (NMS), which captures all opioid prescriptions dispensed in retail pharmacies across Ontario.

This tool was made to complement Public Health Ontario’s interactive tool on opioid-related harms and will be updated on an approximately quarterly basis.

Access the Tool


If you are interested in this work and would like to receive updates, please fill out this form.

Please note that this report is NOT COMPLETE and is still in progress. Click below if you would like to continue.