Addictions and National Addictions Awareness Week – November 13 – 19, 2016.

Sometimes the biggest mistakes we make in life are the biggest learning lessons. Can you imagine if you fell down and the world judged you, how would you feel? You couldn’t find employment despite your efforts and intentions. Then, you have to tap into social service, which in itself creates a whole other dynamic of judgment. So, if someone is knocking on your door saying “here I am, I need your help”; open the door and remember that if they are knocking, they have already started on the road to recovery, to heal and re-gain their self respect.

The commonly held misconception that addiction and substance abuse is not a genuine health issue, creates a damaging stigma that denigrates those affected and prevents them from seeking or getting help. So, in Canada to effectively tackle addictions problem, there needs to be a shift in how these issues are perceived; a realization that they do come under the spectrum of mental health and that those affected need care, support and access to resources.

Addiction is defined as compulsive and persistent need for and use of a habit-forming substance, despite harmful consequences. Addiction is characterized by tolerance and well-defined physiological symptoms apparent upon withdrawal.

The abuse of illegal and prescription substances, has recently been publicized, and includes drugs such as: strong narcotic painkillers, Oxycodone and Fentanyl. Recent deaths have been associated with Fentanyl misuse.Image result for list of all addictions

So here are some noteworthy points:
• Alcohol remains the most widely-used drug in Canada, with close to 80 per cent of British Columbians reporting drinking in the past year
• Addiction is only disease that allows the addict to live in denial and the denial also spreads outwards towards families and communities, often through shame,
• Addiction has huge ramifications on personal, family and community,
• Addiction has many faces ; alcohol, drugs, smoking tobacco, gambling, shopping, over exercising, eating disorders, Internet, homelessness, etc
• The shame and loss of self dignity associated with addiction is one of the biggest barriers to people getting help, following the stigma attached to addiction
• Acute and sudden alcohol withdrawal is known to be fatal.

Each year, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) joins organizations across the country in observing National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW). Led nationally by CCSA, NAAW highlights issues and solutions to help address alcohol- and other drug-related harm. It provides an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about substance abuse prevention, to talk about treatment and recovery, and to bring forward solutions for change.

Addiction and Employment

There’s a monster at your workplace that nobody wants to look at. Everybody knows it exists. That it’s big. It’s ugly. And it’s dangerous. We’d rather cover our eyes and pretend it’s not there. Maybe we’ll peek out once in a while to see if it’s gone away yet. The bad news is that it’s not going anywhere. As a matter of fact, it’s growing!
Approximately 77% of individuals struggling with addiction are employed. Employees suffering from an addiction function at about two thirds of their capacity and are 3.5 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident.
The Canadian Human Rights Act (the Act) prohibits discrimination in employment on a number of grounds and permits employers to accommodate an employee with a disability. The Act considers both mental illness and drug and alcohol dependence as disabilities. The employer needs to know how the employee’s condition affects their work. The employee does not have to disclose information about the diagnosis, the history of the illness or its treatment. It’s also okay for an employer to ask an employee or applicant to provide supporting documentation from a health care provider.

Image result for list of all addictions

How can Substance Abuse be a problem at work?
• An impairment can cause serious accidents or death,
• Interfere with the work accuracy and efficiency,
• Absenteeism, illness, and/or reduced productivity,
• Preoccupation with obtaining and using a substance interferes with attention/concentration,
• Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs or stealing,
• Workplace conflict, staff turnover, disciplinary procedures and low staff morale,
• Psychological effects on a person due to substance abuse by a family member,
• Are there elements of work that may contribute to abuse of substances?

Elements of work that can play a major role contributing to substance abuse:
• High stress or fatigue,
• Low job satisfaction,
• Long hours or irregular shifts,
• Repetitious duties or periods of inactivity or boredom,
• Isolation or irregular supervision
• Easy access to substances.

Work can be an important place to address substance abuse issues. Employers and employees can collaborate on policies which outline what is an acceptable code of conduct. Employers can help troubled employees by establishing resources and programs such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or provide referrals to community services.

Youth and substance abuse

Increasing number of Canada’s youth are experiencing issues with substance abuse which is a growing problem, especially prescription drugs. Canada is now the second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids (exceeded only by the United States), according to the International Narcotics Control Board (2013). These drugs can be diverted and misused by youth and public.
Canadian Executive Council on Addictions and Interim Executive Director of Provincial Addiction and Mental Health Services at Alberta Health Services is quoted as saying; “Youth may think that prescription drugs are safe because they’re taken out of their parent’s medicine cabinet, but they can cause significant harm. “The average child takes their first drink at thirteen and, by the time they’re in grades 10 – 12, half say they’re binge drinking and this is damaging brain development because there are many areas of the brain that don’t fully develop until the early and mid-twenties.”

Another troubling situation in Canada is the relationship that our youth are developing with alcohol. Young people are drinking from an earlier age and many are now binge drinking as a social norm.
In keeping with other risk taking behaviors, there are also significant physical and sexual risks associated with youth binge drinking.

Substance Abuse, Stigma and Barriers to Treatment for Women

In the forefront of psychosocial influences on women, is the misuse of alcohol and other drugs plus the stigma arising from societal attitudes towards women. This stigma causes women to feel considerable guilt and shame as their substance use/misuse which creates a sabotaging sequence of events continuing and creating barriers to their accessing help.

The stigma associated with women substance abuse affects service providers as well. Women often encounter misinformation, denial, inaction and even punitive attitudes towards their substance use by professionals in a position to intervene or position of authority and thus they may not be identified as needing help.

Addiction Awareness in New Westminster

There are several treatment centers for men, youth and women here in New Westminster. It covers all possible demographic, including services for people released from the justice system. There are excellent Youth programs, including services for Aboriginal youth as well as Immigrants. There are Homeless Shelters and services available to Women who have undergone abuse.

Summarising, New Westminster is a hub of activity, in terms of addiction services and related employment services, resources and access to Service Canada and Ministry offices.

Acknowledgements and Thanks:Image result for list of all addictions

Government of Canada
Government of BC
Here To Help
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Mental Health News
Vancouver Coastal Health
Charity Village
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
BC Womens Hospital
BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health


Thank You for Reading.