New survey on addiction in Canada reveals effective paths to recovery


A new national survey on recovery from drug and alcohol addiction shows promising results for those who manage to overcome the multiple hurdles in accessing treatment.

A panel of Canadian addiction experts met Tuesday in Vancouver to present key findings from the survey, titled Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada.

Conducted last spring by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, along with the National Recovery Advisory Committee, the survey had 855 Canadian men and women respond to an online questionnaire describing their recovery experiences. Just under half of the respondents lived in B.C.

The panelists said Tuesday that they were surprised to learn that while close to 83 per cent of respondents said they faced barriers initiating recovery, 54 per cent experienced no barriers in sustaining it and 51 per cent didn’t have a single relapse.

Among the biggest barriers, respondents cited the belief that they weren’t ready or their problem wasn’t serious (55 per cent), worry about what people would think of them (50 per cent), not knowing where to turn for help (36 per cent), a lack of supportive networks (30 per cent) and long delays for treatment (25 per cent).

 About 47 per cent experienced barriers specific to accessing treatment, with most related to the cost, diversity and quality of programs, as well as delays and a lack of mental-health and emotional support. Marshall Smith, senior adviser for recovery initiatives at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, said the 79-page document proves that long-term, sustainable recovery is attainable.
However, he believes Canadians must acknowledge stigmas’ role in forming those barriers — it affected 49 per cent of respondents while they were in active addiction — and how addiction is impacting a broad range of people, including substance-users living in suburban homes and holding jobs.
“Individuals with substance-use disorders are capable of changing, growing and becoming positively connected to the broader community,” he said.

“Yet the recovery community itself faces institutional discrimination, exclusion, social stigma, and experience being reduced to a diagnosis, stereotype and risk score.”

Smith said the survey should be used by policy-makers across Canada to spur further research and to form evidence-based, community-health responses that draw more people into recovery.

According to the survey, the vast majority of respondents reported positive life satisfaction in their recovery, with 91 per cent having a “good,” “very good” or “excellent” life.

Most respondents — 92 per cent — said they turned to a 12-step, mutual-support group program for support. About 61 per cent used a residential addiction-treatment program, while 57 per cent used counselling from a psychologist or psychiatrist not specializing in addiction, and 57 per cent used counselling from an addiction professional.

Judy D’Arcy, MLA for New Westminster and former B.C. NDP health critic, said she believes the report highlights the importance of community support.

D’Arcy stressed that on-demand treatment and recovery services need to become a priority for government, so that if a substance-user is ready to quit, they can do so immediately.

“The services and programs we have in our community — the people who have access to them — do very, very well,” she said. “We’re very proud of those programs, but we also know that there are so many people who don’t have access to them.”

D’Arcy said she hopes that by the fall B.C. will have a dedicated ministry of mental health and addictions, which both the B.C. NDP and Green party pledged to create during the recent election.


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