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Addiction Care Guide Fights Opioid Crisis with Education

Two people with coffee
Two people with coffee

Rita Notarandrea, M.H. Sc., C.H.E.

CEO, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

The sheer volume of media coverage on the opioid crisis has pushed substance use and addiction into everyday discussion. While this is a good thing, it has also revealed a huge need for widespread education about substance use disorder and effective treatment.

Infographic of which addiction supports were used by those seeking treatment. (Friends, family, religion/spirituality, and meditation/mindfulness.)

Recently, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Canadian Executive Council on Addictions, and the Alberta Government collaborated to create a drug and alcohol treatment guide titled Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada.

Understanding the opioid crisis

“We don’t always know the right questions to ask so we want to equip people with tools that will help them make the best decisions based on what is best for their own situation when it comes to treatment options,” says Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. “It was important that the creation of the guide was a group effort. We also consulted with individuals and families who have been impacted by and lived through the experience of addiction and navigated the health care system.”

Notarandrea adds that the nationwide opioid crisis has magnified the issue, and stresses that addiction is a health condition and must be treated like any chronic disease. “It begins with family doctors,” she explains. “Go into a doctor’s office and you will see lots of resources for other medical conditions, but there is very little for substance use and addiction. We’d like to see the guide be widely available so that people understand what is available to them.”

Despite a greater awareness of addiction, there is still significant stigma associated with this disorder. According to Notarandrea, many people do not seek treatment because they are reluctant to talk about their addiction issues for fear of judgement. She’s hopeful the guide will provide individuals with the knowledge they so desperately need about interventions and the confidence to work with their health care provider to develop a treatment plan based on their needs and on what works.

Infographic of the most common drugs during active addiction. (Alcohol, tobacco/nicotine, and cannabis.)

Getting the answers

Infographic of the common barriers to seeking help for addiction. (82.5% experienced at least 1 barrier to initiating recovery.)

The easy-to-read guide dispels myths associated with substance use, explains treatment options and supports for addiction, and provides questions individuals who use drugs patients and their family members can ask service providers in our communities. While it’s easy to feel discouraged and anxious, Notarandrea adds that those with substance use issues should never feel defeated. Treatment works. It must be a tailored to each person’s experience, and exploring different approaches and interventions can uncover the one that will work. It is an individual journey to a better quality of life

“We are all touched by addiction. It’s in our workplaces, our families, and our communities,” she notes. “I am inspired and optimistic about what I am hearing. I haven’t seen this type of national conversation on drug policy and treatment before, and I am confident this guide gives the needed information to help individuals and their families choose what is best for them, reduce the significant harms they are experiencing and help save lives.”

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