As Canadians, we pride ourselves in having a strong and healthy nation. We are fortunate to have access to ample resources that keep us healthy, like clean water and nutritious foods, not to mention the wealth of healthcare and education systems that support us. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that we’re exempt from dangerous habits, like substance abuse. In fact, in recent years, the rate of substance abuse in Canada has been steadily climbing.
Case in point: the Government of Canada estimates that upwards of five million Canadians 15 years and older self-report having used an illicit drug in the last year. Furthermore, these numbers don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the full extent of substance abuse in Canada. In fact, these statistics fail to take into account those who misuse prescription drugs, consume alcohol to excess, or turn to other recreational drugs for self-medication.
It’s no surprise, then, that substance abuse in Canada is costing us dearly. According to a recent report by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the direct and indirect costs associated with substance abuse in Canada amount to more than $38 billion annually, with a disproportionate impact on our Indigenous population.
What’s more, substance abuse in Canada isn’t just a financial burden. It’s a public health crisis with serious consequences to individuals and communities across the nation. Sure, substance abuse can cause serious physical health complications, such as organ failure, respiratory depression, and addiction. But, it can also lead to mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, as well as social problems, like relationship issues or unemployment.
The good news, however, is that not all hope is lost. Prevention and intervention initiatives are being implemented across the country in hopes of reducing the prevalence of substance abuse in Canada.
For starters, schools in Canada are now offering substantial prevention and education programs for students and their families. Such programs help to educate families about the risks associated with substance abuse, provide resources for intervention and treatment, and offer peer support in communities.
In addition to this, many communities are putting into place programs that provide support for those impacted by substance abuse. Programs like Addiction Helpline Connect, for instance, provides individuals with access to low-cost, 24/7 counselling services, as well as resources for connecting with in-person help.
Finally, more and more provinces in Canada are introducing harm-reduction strategies, such as supervised injection services, needle exchange programs, and drug substitution therapies. Such measures are geared towards reducing the risk of overdose, managing the health of individuals who use drugs, and providing a safe space for users to access services and connect with support.
Ultimately, while the rate of substance abuse in Canada is a growing concern, there are many prevention, intervention and harm-reduction strategies helping to address it. It’s encouraging to see our healthcare systems, schools, and communities working together towards a common goal: reducing the number of individuals affected by substance abuse in Canada.