National Addiction Awareness Week, which runs from November 21-27, aims to shed light on the way Canadians view those facing addiction while acknowledging efforts to drive change.
“Addiction is really quite prevalent in our society in different ways,” said Dr. Bonnie Lee, associate professor at the University of Lethbridge.
“It could be related to substance use, but it could also be related to certain behaviors, like gambling, Internet games, and you know that there are other forms of behaviors that could be addictive that are under study.”
Lee, a physician who teaches in the health sciences college, said there is still a lot of stigma and misconceptions surrounding addiction.
“I would just like to draw attention to the fact that addiction is actually a human way of coping with the situation that overwhelms our natural abilities, and the more natural ways we can find, the better we will be to avoid having to resort to substances or behaviors. . to change the way our brain works, ”Lee said.
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Dr. Cheryl Currie, an epidemiologist and associate professor of public health at the U of L, has been conducting several studies related to the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected addiction rates.
She said that social factors appear to play a role in the development or progression of an addiction, describing it as a “slippery slope.”
“In Alberta, adults who experienced racial profiling during the pandemic were much more likely to say they dramatically increased their use of alcohol and cannabis,” he explained.
“There’s a lot of shame around addictions, and I think if we don’t study it, if we don’t bring it up, it really hides a bit.”
He added that Canada leads some of the richest countries when it comes to alcohol consumption per capita.
“We’re trying to understand treatment in clinical work, and we’re also trying to understand prevention, so that people don’t fall into a level of addiction that they can’t get out of,” Currie said.
“I think the role of mindfulness can be really helpful for (someone) in their early stages (of addiction).”
Lee said, “Prevention is largely about knowing how to build strong, supportive relationships with the people they care about.”
Lori Hatfield, a member of the nonprofit Moms Stop the Harm, has been dealing with the effects of her son’s drug use since he was 16 years old.
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She said it was thanks to a recovery center in Calgary that her son was finally able to begin the journey to recovery, but that they came with many difficult years.
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“(My son) ended up losing everything,” Hatfield said. “He lost his vehicles. He had nowhere to stay. He ended up living on the street.
“When someone, a loved one, lives with an addiction, it creates a traumatic symbiosis in the family.”
Hatfield believes compassion is needed, along with tangible support from the community and government, to help people recover.
“Gone are the days of stigmatizing and judging people who use drugs,” Hatfield said.
“Trauma is one of the main reasons people live with addictions, and further traumatizing them by treating them as less than human is just horrible.”
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Hatfield said that the support of joining MSTH has been a great help in connecting with other people in a similar situation.
“For people who have someone in active addiction, don’t give up,” he said.
“They are still there. Realize that when you get so angry and frustrated, you are not dealing with the person, you are dealing with the addiction. “
According to the Alberta Government Substance Use Surveillance Data1,026 people died from January to August 2021 from drug and alcohol intoxication.
Loa Manning, assistant owner and pharmacist at Lethbridge Shoppers Drug Mart, is encouraging the public to stop by a pharmacy to purchase a kit of naloxone, a drug used to block the effects of opioids.
“If you see someone you think might be overdosing on drugs, what’s in (the kit) will help save their life,” he said.
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Kits are provided at Alberta pharmacies free of charge. Manning said his pharmacy generally delivers a few each week.
“You can get as many kits as you want, if you want one for your home, one for your car,” Manning explained. “So just come and ask for one because everyone should have one.”
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