Addiction not only affects the person struggling with it, but it often drags along friends and family.

Whether it’s prescription medication, street drugs or alcohol – addiction can be devastating and difficult to address. Pain-relieving drugs serve an important role in relief and recovery when prescribed by a doctor and used correctly. However, they’re often highly addictive and can be lethal if abused.

Between April and September of 2020, there were over 3,300 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada.

To help someone battling an addiction, it’s important to recognize it’s a mental health condition. Using no longer becomes a choice for someone if they’re addicted.

People start using drugs for many different reasons — curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, to improve athletic performance, to numb emotional pain and more. Drug use doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, and it’s often hard to pinpoint a single moment where drug use goes from casual to problematic.

Usually, drug abuse and addiction are less about how often a person uses substances. Instead, it’s more about the reasons why people turn to drugs and the consequences of their abuse. For example, if drug use is causing problems in your life, such as losing a job or strained relationships, you likely have a problem with drug abuse. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Who is most Affected by Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse can affect anyone, but according to the Canadian Mental Health Association men are more likely than women to experience substance abuse. Family history, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, low self-esteem and a history of trauma or abuse are risk factors.

It’s no secret addiction can lead to other issues ranging from impaired driving incidents to family conflict, work problems, money issues or worse.

Words Matter
We’ve all heard the terms ‘junkie,’ or ‘druggie,’ to describe someone who has a substance abuse problem. But words like those feed the stigma surrounding drug use and often make it harder for people to speak up because they feel judged, misunderstood and isolated.

Be kind with the words you use. And remember addiction is a treatable medical condition, not a choice. 

How do you help someone with a substance abuse issue?
Educate yourself. Addiction is complex and recovery often takes months and even years. Your role is to offer support, encouragement to get help and be there for them when they do.

There are numerous roads to recovery. It can include individual counselling, group counselling and even time in a treatment centre.

Some people find help through 12-step model support/recovery groups. These are free, peer-based treatment programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Whatever their journey looks like, show your loved one kindness and compassion – these simple gestures can mean the world to someone in a time of struggle. 

August 31, 2021 is International Overdose Awareness Day, the largest global campaign to remember those who have died, recognize the grief of those left behind and push for ways to reduce the number of people impacted by addiction.

Additional Resources for Substance Abuse Support

  • GMS Personal Health Insurance Plans include LifeWorks, offering 24/7 confidential phone access to counsellors and referrals to professional health-care providers working in the area of addictions.
  • GMS Group Advantage Health Plan customers get access to Homewood Health’s Employee Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) which provides evidence-based treatment solutions ranging from recovery to reintegration and relapse as well as family support.
  • Wellness Together Canada is a free, 24-hour chat support line at 1-866-585-0445.