Indigenous youth who use drugs are 13 times more likely to die than their non-Indigenous peers, and women face greater risk than young men, according to results of a new study. A team of researchers analyzed data on 610 young Indigenous people aged 14-30 years who used drugs in Vancouver and Prince George, BC, on Coast Salish and Lheidli T’enneh territories, respectively. Forty young people died between 2003 and 2014, and deaths of young women were almost double that of men. The leading cause of death was overdose, followed by illness and suicide. Nearly 75% of those who died from overdose or illness were women. Study authors say their findings underscore the injustices and barriers to care that young Indigenous people have faced historically and still encounter in the present.


Kate Jongbloed, Margo E. Pearce, Sherri Pooyak, David Zamar, Vicky Thomas, Lou Demerais, Wayne M. Christian, Earl Henderson, Richa Sharma, Alden H. Blair, Eric M. Yoshida, Martin T. Schechter and Patricia M. Spittal; for the Cedar Project Partnership

Corresponding author:

Patricia Spittal, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, BC, Email:

Original paper published in CMAJ on November 6, 2017.