Monthly Archives: June 2015

Female drug users shun treatment for fear of losing children: U.N.


LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Female drug users worldwide are far less likely than their male counterparts to undergo treatment due to discrimination against mothers and pregnant women and the cost of childcare, transport and treatment, the U.N. drugs body said on Friday.

Women with drug problems are heavily stigmatized and find it difficult to leave their homes or families for treatment, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) annual World Drug Report.

Sad woman's facePunitive attitudes toward mothers and pregnant women mean many fear losing custody of their children as a condition of treatment, and this prevents them from seeking care, the UNODC said.

“Women in particular appear to face barriers to treatment,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in a statement.

“While one out of three drug users globally is a woman, only one out of five drug users in treatment is a woman.”

Women are three times less likely than men to use cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines but more likely to misuse prescription drugs, according to the UNODC.

Yet women who use drugs are at higher risk than male users of developing more severe health problems, the report said.

The U.N. body said there was a lack of information about women with drug problems and few services were designed for women, especially in poorer countries.

 Women with children who wish to join outpatient treatment programs often find it difficult to pay for child-care, transport or treatment itself, according to the UNODC.

Many women with drug use disorders tend to come from families where one or more family members is also drug dependent, and identify relationship problems as a reason for their use of drugs, the report said.

While men may be referred for treatment by their family, an employer or the criminal justice system, female drug users are more likely to be identified and referred by social services or health workers when seeking help for other problems, including mental health issues, the UNODC said.

The report said drug use prevalence remains stable worldwide. An estimated 246 million people – around five percent of those aged 15 to 64 – used an illicit drug in 2013, and some 27 million people have drug problems, according to the UNODC.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Timothy Pearce; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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Preconception Health and Health Care: For Men

male-issues-preconceptionWhen most people hear the term preconception health, they think about women. However, preconception health is important for men, too. There are things men can do for their own health, as well as for the women and children in their lives.

1. Make a Plan and Take Action

Whether or not you’ve written them down, you’ve probably thought about your goals for having or not having children and how to achieve those goals. This is called a reproductive life plan. It’s really important to have a plan and take action. Every woman, man, and couple can benefit from having a reproductive life plan based on her, his, or their own personal values, goals, and resources.

2. Prevent and Treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Get screened and treated for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Continue to protect yourself and your partner from STDs during pregnancy. Pregnancy does not provide a woman or the baby she is carrying any protection against STDs. The consequences of an STD can be significantly more serious, even life threatening, for a woman and her unborn baby if the woman becomes infected with an STD while pregnant. In addition, some STDs can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant) in a woman.

3. Stop Smoking, Using “Street” Drugs, and Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol

Smoking, using “street” drugs, and drinking too much alcohol (binge drinking) is harmful to your health.

Secondhand smoke can cause early death and disease among children and adults who do not smoke. A pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birthweight than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.

In addition, drinking too much alcohol and using “street” drugs can cause infertility among men. If you cannot stop drinking, smoking, or using drugs―get help! Contact your doctor or local health centre.

4. Be Careful About Toxic Substances

Exposure to toxic substances and other harmful materials at work or at home, such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces, can hurt the reproductive systems of men and women. They can make it more difficult for a couple to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to certain diseases.

5. Prevent Infertility

Sometimes a man is born with problems that affect his sperm. Other times, problems start later in life due to illness or injury. A man’s sperm can be changed by his overall health and lifestyle. Some things that can reduce the health or number of sperm include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Some “street” drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and anabolic steroids
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Hazardous substances, including bug spray and metals, such as lead
  • Diseases such as mumps, serious conditions like kidney disease, or hormone problems
  • Medicines (prescription, nonprescription, and herbal products)
  • Radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer

If you are concerned about fertility, talk with your doctor or another health professional.

6. Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. In addition, obesity among men is associated directly with increasing male infertility.People who are underweight also are at risk for serious health problems.

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. Staying in control of your weight contributes to good health now and as you age.

If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor or another health professional about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

7. Learn Your Family History

Collecting your family’s health history can be important for your child’s health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.

Based on your family history, your doctor might refer you for genetic counselling. Other reasons people go for genetic counselling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, or trouble getting pregnant (infertility) or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred during a previous pregnancy.

8. Get Mentally Healthy

Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health care professional about your feelings and treatment options.

9. Support Your Partner

As partners, men can encourage and support the health of women. For example, if your partner is trying to eat healthier to get ready for pregnancy you can join her and eat healthier, too. Or if your partner has a medical condition, you can encourage her to see her doctor and remind her to follow her treatment plan.

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Communities across Canada are becoming increasingly aware of issues related to pregnancy, alcohol and substance use, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and child health and development. In many communities, the needs of pregnant women with substance use issues are of particular concern as they often intersect with issues such as poverty, unsafe or inadequate housing, violence and abuse, food insecurity, and other health and social issues. Many people are asking questions about how to support women and their babies/young children so that they can have a healthy and safe start in life.

In the early 1990s, several communities began to develop integrated responses to addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting women with substance use issues. These early programs included Sheway in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Breaking the Cycle in Toronto. Nearly 20 years later, the research evidence clearly supports this type of program as an effective way of addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting women who use substances.

While all these programs are different in philosophy and mandate, they all seek to provide a range of services under one roof (a “onestop shop” or “single-access” model), address women’s needs from a holistic perspective, provide practical and emotional support, and strive to reduce barriers to accessing care and support. Another important similarity is that all of these programs started as a unique network of cross-sectoral partnerships that developed a common vision, values, and goals.

In the following document the Canada FASD Research Network has profiled the development of single-access programs in four different communities and talk about why this type of program works.

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Information retrieved from: canfasd

Taking a relational approach: the importance of timely and supportive connections for women

13699608684_b4d24afa49_z-300x200Pregnancy is often described as an opportune time for service providers to support women in improving their health, including efforts to decrease or stop substance use. However, a number of factors prevent pregnant women, particularly those most marginalized, from seeking out support and treatment. For marginalized women who do access care, entry into treatment is often delayed and attrition rates are high.

The lives of women with substance use problems are often very difficult, requiring attention to myriad interrelated issues, such as: current and/or historic experiences of violence and trauma, poverty, mental ill health, polydrug use, malnutrition, housing difficulties, and physical health problems. Underlying these issues is often a lack of connection to an established support system that can help women respond to existing and presenting challenges.

Additionally, multiple barriers to care often influence women’s abilities and desires to access support. Given the depth and scope of these interconnected barriers and challenges, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention cannot be accomplished using reductive approaches that focus solely on achieving abstinence from alcohol. Rather, FASD prevention requires multifaceted responses focused on addressing the many interrelated issues and barriers to care that directly influence women’s and children’s health.

The following information sheet has been prepared for decision makers, health system planners and service providers interested in improving care for women at risk of having a child affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It has been prepared by members of the CanNorthwest FASD Research Network’s Action Team on FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective. This sheet describes the rationale for multi-faceted relational approaches, and extended timeframes for engagement and support, and finishes with ten recommendations for improved care that have implications for policy, system planning and practice.

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For more information about Canada FASD Research Network visit:

FASD Gala: The Foothills Fetal Alcohol Society


The Foothills Fetal Alcohol Society is a registered non-profit charity that serves people in South Central Alberta who are affected with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Our mission is “provide response today for a world without FASD tomorrow.” 

The Foothills Fetal Alcohol Society is proud to present our FASD Gala in the hopes of bringing a message of prevention to Albertan young adults.

This event will be a mixture of education and fun, with interactive games, raffles, and a photo booth. 

The FASD Gala will feature panel speakers including professionals who focus on prevention, individuals affected by FASD, and their families.

Please join us on Thursday, August 20, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM (MDT), in Calgary, AB.


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How we drink: Here’s everything you need to know about Canadians’ overall boozy habits

Written by: Sarah Boesveld | May 15, 2015

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Roughly 80% of Canadians drink alcohol, the boozing majority swelling in size over the better part of a decade. Nearly 22 million Canadians reported throwing back booze in the year 2013, whether it be a tipple or a ton of Tanqueray. Studies show we’re also drinking more than we should: The percentage of Canadians exceeding the low-risk drinking guidelines set out by Canadian health agencies was 18.8% in 2013 compared to 17.6% a decade earlier.

In the year 2014, Canadians over age 15 downed 8 litres of pure booze, or 469 standard drinks. But while ubiquitous beer commercials and these kinds of stats make it seem like we’re on the bottle more than ever, drinkers in the 1989 and the mid-to late 80s actually drank more than we do now: about 8.8 litres per person in a year, or 502 drinks a year. That was the historical peak for our drinking — at least according to the best available data, says Gerald Thomas, a collaborating scientist with the Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia.


We dried out a little in the 1990s. “I think it has to do with drinking and driving laws — during that period there was a big shift on how we relate to alcohol and driving.” People also became far more health conscious through that decade, he says. But by the turn of the century, we started steadily drinking more, with a bit of a dip in 2012, following the financial downturn. There’s been an increase since, but then a drop in sales in 2013-2014.



How much did you drink last Saturday night? Come on, tell the truth. It turns out we’re very bad at assessing how much alcohol we throw down our gullets. Researchers — grappling with self-reported data they know doesn’t quite reflect reality — are now trying to fix that. A United Kingdom study which explored the discrepancy between survey responses about how much people say they drink and the amount of alcohol sold found 75% of men and 80% of women were drinking above the daily limit. That was 19% and 26% more, respectively, than what they claimed.


A forthcoming Canadian study on the same discrepancy found that only a third of Canadians accurately reported their consumption to interviewers. “The great majority of alcohol sold in Canada is drunk in a way that exceeds national low-risk drinking guidelines,” study co-author and University of Victoria psychology professor Tim Stockwell told the National Post. “[F]urther, the number of people exceeding these guidelines is almost double previous estimates,” When researchers controlled for under-reported data, they estimate more than 40% of Canadians are “higher risk” drinkers.

We aren’t always intentionally misleading those who ask about how many drinks we drink. Part of the problem is we just can’t remember — at least over the long term, says Thomas. Doctors and researchers can take some of the responsibility for that: Instead of asking how many drinks a person has in a year or an average week, they could ask, “How many did you drink last night?” and then work it out from there (more studies are now taking that approach). On top of that, people don’t know what a standard drink looks like. The big glass of wine your sister-in-law pours at the family barbeque is probably more like 10 oz rather than the standard drink of 5. A pint of beer at a pub? That’s one and a half standard drinks. At the end of the day, stigma’s also to blame for our bad counting: No one wants to be painted a drunk. When Thomas gives talks, he’ll ask how many people have been impacted by alcoholism. A wave of hands always goes up. And yet there’s real trouble discussing alcohol. “People are not comfortable talking about these things,” he says.




A whole lot of Canadians prefer to swill their spirits and sip their wine in the comfort of their own homes. “Looking at the data, we see the vast majority of drinking is going on behind closed doors,” says John Mohler, a vice-president at Ipsos Reid, one of Canada’s leading polling agencies, which has run the robust Alcohol Consumption Tracker, a market research tool, since 2011. The 2015 ACT, which has more than 1,000 Canadians keep a monthly online diary of their drinking behaviours, found a full 58% of drinks are consumed in one’s own home and 16% of drinks consumed in the home of another person. This is the case across regions and generations. “It’s cheaper to drink at home, it’s easier, it’s more accessible — you don’t have to go anywhere — you have greater selection, typically,” adds Mohler. “Going somewhere has implications…[this way] you don’t have to drive.” While 80% of drinks are consumed in the presence of somebody else – 29% in the presence of only a spouse and 20% in a large group — 19.6% of drinks are being swallowed alone. Gabor Forgacs, a professor of hospitality at Ryerson University, connects this with the rise in single person households noted in the most recent Census. “I suppose if someone has a meal alone … isn’t it natural to make it less unhappy by adding a glass or two? Who is going to say “Honey, that’s enough for now…?”



We’re most commonly found with a drink in our hands in the evening hours of 5pm to 10 pm, with 66% of total drinks consumed within this timeframe. According to the Ipsos data, 18 percent of drinks are downed from noon to 5 pm, and 14% in the night, past 10pm. Younger generations are more likely to stray outside the evening zone. Men are also more likely to be “routine” drinkers, says Mohler.




The biggest rise in drinking has been amongst women of childbearing years and of European descent, experts say. Countries that rank high on the United Nations index of emancipation have seen a rise in female drinkers in the past number of years (these include countries such as Norway). It’s a trend that has health experts sounding the alarm, because women process alcohol differently than men. “We tend to think, in our culture, of two things: Drunk driving and liver disease,” says Ann Dowsett Johnston, the Toronto-based author ofDrink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, which chronicles the rise in risky drinking amongst women. “We don’t think of the 200+ cancers and diseases related to alcohol ingestion.”Fifteen percent of breast cancers draw a straight line to alcohol, she says. Women drink for a lot of the same reasons as men: To celebrate and relax. But for a modern woman laden with greater expectations on the home front and at work, it becomes both a reward and a socially acceptable coping mechanism, she says. “It’s a quick decompression tool.”



Canadians of European descent are driving the upward trend in drinking, says Jurgen Rehm, the director of social and epidemiological research at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “We have a number of immigrants who drink not a lot or next to nothing, which basically means that the increase you’re seeing [in Canadians drinking] means that those who already consumed quite heavily are now drinking more.” A new study of immigrants to Ontario found that while immigrants tend to drink less than those born in Canada, place of birth was significantly associated with risky drinking, except for people who emigrated from East Asia or Northern Europe.

How more women are drinking like men — and why it’s dangerous

by Iman Sheikh Tuesday June 16, 2015 Retrieved from: 


If you’re Canadian, you probably drink a lot more alcohol than you think.

Enough booze is purchased per year to supply every person 15 and over with either 480 bottles of beer, 91 bottles of wine or 27 bottles of spirits. But don’t rush to assume it’s all frat boys – if you’re female, middle aged and have a job, you may be among the heaviest drinkers in North America.

Statistics Canada discovered that between 2009 and 2012, the number of male ‘heavy drinkers’ in the province decreased by one per cent but their female counterparts increased by 6.5 per cent. A ‘heavy drinker’ was defined as someone who has at least five drinks on at least one occasion a month. In 2013, the criteria changed to four drinks for females but remained five for males.

Why the rise in tippling women? One likely reason is women’s increased earning power. While women, on average, still make significantly less than men, the most recent data (2011) shows that since 1987, when the Pay Equity Act was passed, the gender wage gap in Ontario has shrunk by 38 per cent. When women compete with men in the professional field, they tend to adopt some of the outward signs of male culture.

“We already know that the more pronounced the role of women, the more equal the drinking rates will become,” says Dr. Jürgen Rehm, director of the Social and Epidemiological Research Department at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). “And over the last 20 to 30 years, we’ve seen much more emancipation.”



Another reason for rising alcohol abuse rates is intensely focused alcohol marketing towards female consumers. LCBO stores now offer dozens of wines and spirits by brands such as “Girls’ Night Out” (made here in Ontario), “Uv Cake” and “Skinnygirl.”

Since women represent about 85 per cent of consumer shopping and respond most to advertising that helps them bring out the best version of themselves, it’s no coincidence that more low calorie, low carb, ‘healthy’ options line liquor stores shelves than ever before.  Take this tagline for vodka brand Voli, for example:

“Enhanced with electrolytes and no more than 81 calories a serving, Voli Light Vodkas is just the sweet drink you need when you and your girlfriends are having a girl’s night in.”

The stress that many women experience in middle age also factors into increased rates of drinking. “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction in women’s lives today: the kids, the career, the marriage, the aging parents, the worries about their own aging,” Gabrielle Glaser, author ofHer Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink – and How They Can Regain Controlsays in an interview with the Globe and Mail.

However, it’s important for women to recognize that the two sexes were not created equal — at least in terms of alcohol tolerance. Women have smaller quantities than men of the enzyme dehydrogenase that breaks down alcohol in the stomach, making them more vulnerable to adverse consequences of alcohol use. In general, women also have less water in the body, so a woman will absorb about 30 per cent more alcohol into her bloodstream than a man of the same weight who has had the same number of drinks.

Many women think the trouble with drinking is primarily liver damage when it comes to their health. This is not so. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer.

Alcohol affects the level of certain hormones in the body, such as estrogen, which is a large factor in breast cancer development.

“For women, even drinking one alcoholic drinks a day can increase your risk of developing breast cancer by 1.5 times,” says Susan Flynn, senior manager of Prevention at the Canadian Cancer Society. “The risk of breast cancer may increase with every additional drink a woman has each day.”

It’s not just breasts at risk, however. Drinking can increase the risk of many types of cancer, including , colon, rectal, esophagus, larynx, liver and mouth cancer. The main component of alcoholic beverages is the carcinogen ethanol. Add to this acetaldehyde, a chemical that is produced when the body metabolizes alcohol, and you have a highly toxic combination known to create cancerous cells in the body.

Alcohol5Then there are the mental health risks associated with alcohol consumption. According to Rehm, the biggest issue with heavy drinking is a mood disorder known as alcohol use disorder (formerly called alcohol abuse). In 2012, 18.1 per cent of Canadians met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. 

For Rehm, concerns over the health effects of heavy drinking for both women and men will only increase, given the provincial government’s plans to make wine and beer available on supermarket shelves.

“There is a clear correlation and association between the number of outlets and availability of alcohol and drinking level,” he says. “And of course the harm from alcohol.”

To combat the growth in heavy drinking, he suggests curtailing the number of alcohol outlets, along with two other measures.

“Make it more expensive and ban marketing,” he says. “There’s no reason an Ontario teenager by aged 16 should already have seen millions of posters for alcohol. There is a clear relationship between efforts on TV, radio and sports marketing and the amount of alcohol being consumed. If we ban marketing, that would be one of the easiest solutions. Twenty years ago, you would never have had a wine called ‘Girl’s Night Out.’”

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