Alcohol Addiction

Be in the Know: Canada’s Latest Alcohol Addiction and Recovery Facts

Most people enjoy the occasional glass of wine with our meal, and the nonchalance of folks having a couple of drinks at the end of the day seems far from becoming a problem. Perhaps it is why countless people don’t think they have a problem. There are also cultural and social aspects associated with drinking, especially among Canadians. Having a long history of alcohol consumption that has shaped drinking preferences over time, alcohol is widely available and promoted, while just as much as almost everywhere around the world increased exposure from the media and surrounding environment as well as easy access to alcohol are linked to increased drinking and addiction.

Back in 2015, about 80% of the Canadian population reported consuming alcohol. More recently, Statistic Canada revealed that 19% of Canadians aged as little as 12 and older reported habits that classified them as heavy drinkers. The latest numbers also show that despite the fact that 18 is the legal age to purchase alcohol, almost 30% (27.9%) of teenagers between 12 and 17 report consuming alcohol and over 40% say they do it at least once a month. Another large survey of over 43,000 students from across 41 Canadian campuses signalled the struggles institutions face with the prevalence of binge drinking. Over third of respondents admitted to having five or more drinks the last time they partied or socialized, while 18% said they physically injuring themselves as a result of over drinking or had unprotected sex (24%), lost their memory (29%) or did a regrettable thing (38%).

When these numbers are put in a global context, the World Health Organization reports that Canadians drink more than the global average and when being compared to the U.S, Latin American and Caribbean countries it’s actually the first one.

However alarming these numbers may be, having a couple of drinks is now so normalized, very few people are actually aware of the risks. Millions of drinking Canadians risk injuries, chronic conditions such as liver disease and cancer and children end up growing up with alcohol in their environment making them numb to dangers. At least 3,000 babies are estimated to having been born with feta alcohol spectrum disorder each year.

At the individual level, alcohol impacts the biological system, much like a drug causing addiction leading to health problems, decreased well-being over both the short and long term. It also affects behaviours as many of us are aware: from impulsivity and violence to poor memory, impaired decision-making and overall functioning.

Related article: How Alcohol Abuse Affects Family Relationships And Friendships

After tobacco, alcohol is considered to be the substance that causes most harm across Canada. It has also been shown to be one of the top three leading risks for cancer worldwide being responsible for about 4% of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, liver, larynx and breast. And its consumption has implications at many levels. The economic cost alone of alcohol-related harm is estimated at about $14.6 billion per year. ​While Canadians are known to having spent over $22 billion on alcohol just last year.

There is a wide range of factors influencing the ways in which alcohol affects a person’s life and health which include how much and how often a person drinks. Probably just as much as the specific health risk factors they are facing and even what they do under the influence. And it’s way too easy to fall into the trap. Ads are on TV, friends are posting boozy pictures on social media, there are even studies that prove the benefit of drinking which is quite dangerous as many fail to acknowledge the ‘moderately’ and end up in emergency rooms or hooked on it.

But how can one know when too much is actually too much? Preferably before getting into accidents and causing injuries to themselves and others. According to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, having more than 15 standard drinks a week for men and 10 a week for women with more than 3 drinks a day for men or 2 for women increases health risk, makes people more prone to addiction and is a definite sign that there is a problem that needs addressing.

If it gets to addiction, recovery can be a lifelong battle for many. And there isn’t a specific profile the average alcohol addict has, it can be anyone from any gender, race, age or status. A 2017 survey wanted to uncover the realities of alcohol recovery in Canada, what it means for people going through it and what got them there. Among other questions, participants were asked if they consider themselves in recovery and what were the main challenges they encountered so far. 78% of people who considered themselves in recovery were actively employed, while almost half (49%) were married and over 60% had kids. However, on a more optimistic note, the survey also showed that recovery facilitated significant improvements in both productivity and quality of life. For example, more than 60% used to miss work regularly. This number showed incredible progression after recovery, dropping to only 4%.

Learning about the challenges they faced shows how big the gap is when it comes to seeking help. Results showed many people hide their problem and still consider it something to be embarrassed about. Before receiving help, the first barrier that needed overcoming was the stigma, the second one was access to services with many believing finding the right support was difficult when they finally decided they needed it.

These key findings are essential, especially for recovery facilities that strive to continuously improve their offering and care. Probably the best way to learn more about how to seek the most appropriate services and what to expect once admitted is to hear from people who have gone through the exact same thing or even worse. Testimonials can help many overcome their fears and understand that recovering does not have to be a gruesome, horrible process. Quite the opposite, it can be a life-changing experiences with long-term benefits.

September is Recovery Month across Canada. Ahead of this, it’s important for communities and businesses to join forces altogether to work towards improving the lives of people facing alcohol addiction.

Call 1000 Islands Addiction Rehab & Treatment Centre for addiction treatment programs.

Addiction Treatment Tips

Addiction Is a Lot Like Heart Disease, So Why Are We Not Approaching It The Same Way?

Drugs – whether alcohol, cannabis, heroin, opioids or any other addictive substance – alter how the brain functions. These changes persist long after the drug’s effects are gone and even after an individual has stopped using the drug. This is possibly an explanation as to why people who abuse drugs often relapse even after years of abstinence. When experts started looking into addiction and associated behaviour back in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were perceived to lack willpower, be morally flawed and many times instead of being given the help which could’ve made a difference, they were met with stigma.

These prejudices shaped how societies responded to drug abuse and addiction. Only as of several years ago, addiction and people affected by it started receiving the attention and understanding needed and more prevention initiatives were put in place. Science definitely played a key role in all of this. In-depth research into how addictive substances act on the brain and the compulsive, incontrollable biological responses they trigger thus influencing the behaviour as well, has helped break down silos and better position authorities to effectively address the problem. Imagine that genetic factors can increase a person’s vulnerability to addiction by about 60%.

However, polls such as the one conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in 2018 continue to show there is still more work that needs to be done and more awareness raised to position addiction as a disease. It’s great that most medical authorities see addiction this way, but when it comes to the public the gap becomes more evident. For instance, 53% of Americans involved in the AP-NORC survey said they view addiction as a medical issue, but they still have concerns regarding addicts and their ulterior motives.

Less than one in five admitted to being willing to be associated with a person suffering from addiction, even more worrisome they said that this would apply whether it’s a friend, neighbour or co-worker. These heart-breaking findings should make us all think about the ramified difficulties addiction entails. Despite research, scientific advancements and more media attention than ever before, 44% of respondents think addiction to an opioid is a sign of weak willpower, a lack of discipline or a moral flaw. Even more so, a staggering 55% would be in favour of severe measurements to be taken against people who abuse drugs. Almost 90 years down the line and even with evidence staring right in our faces, there’s still a lot more convincing and educating that needs to be done.

In Canada, one in eight people have a friend or relative who has become dependent on opioids in the last five years, according to a new findings from the Angus Reid Institute. The poll which looked at over 5,000 respondents also revealed that one in five people have been themselves prescribed a powerful pain killer, putting them at risk of misuse and addiction. Similarly, nearly 5.8 million Canadians aged at least 12 years old are classified as heavy drinkers and over 47,000 deaths are attributed to substance abuse annually.

Addiction is very similar to chronic illnesses, such as heart disease for example. Both disturb the typical, healthy functioning of the underlying organ, expose the client to devastating risks, and at the same time can be prevented and treated, but if left unaddressed, they will affect the rest of the person’s life and increase the risk of early mortality.

Much like heart disease which silently kicks off during childhood and adolescence and then develops over the years, the drug use danger zone peaks between 16 and 17 years old, but it is not uncommon for 12-15 years old to experiment with at least one substance. The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey is the longest ongoing survey of young Canadians in grades 7 through 12 and one of the biggest in the world. The latest one published in 2017 has surveyed a total of 11,435 students on their past year experiences with alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs and prescription medicines.

In line with adult population figures, findings concluded that alcohol was in the lead across both male and female of all grades mentioned, with over 42% having had at least a couple of drinks. And it gets worse, among 9 to 12 graders: 14% said they drank hazardously in the past year, 16% could not recall what happened when they got drunk on at least one occasion and 8% were injured or injured someone else because of this. Probably another shocking thing to learn was that 27% of respondents said they are permitted to drink at home with their friends. These results alone should raise a lot of concern.

Research has demonstrated that the earlier a child starts to consume alcohol, the higher the chances of developing an addiction. Moreover, drinking at a young age can have irreparable health consequences, particularly due to the fact that their bodies are in the midst of development. It is important to address addiction as early as possible to minimize future risks.

Cannabis is the next drug in the top after alcohol. 19% of Canadian students report having tried it at least once between 2016 and 2017, and as result of that, 2% say they are experiencing symptoms of addiction. Another shocking discovery was that one in ten (10.6%) students polled have used opioid pain relievers and more than 9% of them have tried getting kicks from cough medication. Regarding other illicit drugs, the study focused on young Canadians’ responses in grades 9-12 and they revealed that 4% have tried magic mushrooms, 3.4% have had ecstasy (MDMA) and 2.7% have used sedatives, at least once in the run up to 2017.

As a result of all these habits, one is seven students report symptoms of a drug use problem. That is almost 110,000 young Canadians that are more or less suffering in silence in need of support, or in worse cases, they continuously put themselves in life-threatening situations. Also important to stop upon and reflect is the fact that 3,800 Canadians in grades 9-12 have been in a treatment because of their substance abuse. There are few things more shattering than imagining a child going through detox and rehab, or endangering themselves, their friends, families and communities.

Nevertheless, just like dealing with a heart condition, appropriately addressing the problem and managing the symptoms as well as working to prevent it from recurring, addiction should be approached similarly. Fortunately, drug rehabilitation in Canada is among the best in the world.

A new national survey conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction studying recovery from drug and alcohol addiction has revealed encouraging results. Conducted online and involving 855 Canadian men and women who went through recovery, the study emphasized that getting clean is much easier than many would think, with the main hurdles being in terms of lack of support, information or financial resources. More than half of participants (54% respectively 51%) said they experienced no barriers in keeping up with the recovery plan as well as avoid having a single relapse.

The latest available Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction report published in 2017 looked at addiction treatment as seen through the eyes of 150,222 unique individuals. The vast majority (92%) accessed publicly funded treatments for their substance abuse and 8% did so for a friend or a family member. Nearly 64% of Canadians who accessed recovery services were males and as expected the primary drug abuses for which they seek treatment were alcohol, cannabis, opioids and cocaine. These figures do not include private rehab services which makes the learnings even more dismaying. If we were to round them all up the numbers would reach millions and it’s not just the person who’s battling the addiction, it’s their family and close friends who also get affected in the process.

Can addiction be cured? This is a question that’s floating around many people’s minds. Exactly like a chronic disease, the aim of the treatment is to be symptom-free and go on to live healthy and productive lives. It takes medication, therapy and lifestyle changes to do it, just like you would with a heart condition. And just like that, if the treatment plan is interrupted, the symptoms will reappear.

Related article: Addiction Treatment: Here’s Why You Should Celebrate Sobriety

What numerous people fail to understand is that once a person is addicted, the drugs are not used to make them feel good, they are used to make them feel normal. Science has demonstrated that consistently using a drug, whatever it may be, leads to tolerance and severely limits a person’s capacity to feel any pleasure at all. Because the first couple of times a drug is being used it floods the brain with dopamine, over time that effect is diminished. That sadly means that not only the brain’s reward centre will be far less responsive to drugs, but also to typical activities that individuals used to enjoy prior to their drug addiction. Imagine going to a concert to see an artist which has been a lifelong dream, only to find yourself unable to focus and enjoy the experience without a stimulant.

Addiction has a chronic nature – meaning relapse is not only a possibility, but it’s likely to happen. To put things into perspective even more, the rates of relapse are comparable to the ones for other chronic illnesses. In heart disease, hypertension specifically having a relapse has a probability between 50 and 70%, resembling the ones for asthma and just a bit higher than the rates for diabetes. Just like it wouldn’t be the case for these diseases, relapse does not mean treatment failure, it just means the existing plan needs to be revisited and adjusted accordingly.

On the other hand, addiction has been known to co-exist alongside other medical conditions. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has warned that as many as 6 in 10 people living with addiction have at least one other mental health illness such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or others. It does not necessarily mean one leads to the other, it just shows how important it is to not judge based on biases and understand that many times not addressing these co-occurring issues can sabotage the entire recovery process.

In any given year, about 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health issue or an addiction problem. If we also factor in that 70% of mental illnesses have their onset during childhood and adolescence, it becomes quite obvious how fate is tempted. The more we learn about these patterns and threats, the easier it will be to tackle them.

It is a problem that concerns every single Canadian. In Ontario alone, the burden of mental illness and addiction is 1.5 times higher than all cancers altogether and over 7 times than that of all infectious diseases. Reality is it’s a crisis and as any crisis if not addressed properly and timely, the aftermath will be devastating, costly and irreversible. Even giant Google, which previously stripped rehab-related search terms from its AdWords, is now back to accepting ads from alcohol and drug addiction treatment services, under a much better supervised context. The decision will have an impact on in-person rehab facilities, crisis hotlines, and support groups. It may not seem as a huge effort, but if we think back to survey results which revealed people don’t know where to find information and how to access it, technology should be able to help.

The world finds itself at a unique point in history where we can foster the many benefits of advancements in science to improve the lives of millions. Leveraging these strengths can help lead to a more positive life and improve overall public health, not only in Canada but all around the globe. Contact 1000 Islands Addiction Rehab & Treatment Centre for addiction treatment programs.

Related article: How to Stay Sober After Addiction Treatment