Facing substance abuse in the region
A local organization hopes to raise awareness about
substance abuse in the region through film and community forums.
In the Mind's Eye 2006 is presented by the Community
Safety & Crime Prevention Council (CS&CPC). The series of films and
forums is meant to provide a glimpse into the world of addiction and
crime in the region and runs until Nov. 28.
A recent workshop about drug and alcohol use kicked
off the events. It highlighted trends, costs and implications for
Waterloo Region. The workshop revolved around facts and figures compiled
in a study for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Among chief findings is the financial cost of
substance abuse, which amounts to almost $40 billion across the country
(including health care, productivity losses, prevention and research,
law enforcement and other costs).
"That cost is due to alcohol, illegal drug use and
smoking," said Ben Taylor, research analyst with the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health. "In terms of reducing the costs - which is
what the study focused on - we have to look at bringing consumption
Taylor said the workshop went well. There was a large
range of people in attendance, which he said was unusual. Participants
included members of the public and he said he thought that was a good
sign that the community was ready to start dealing with the problems
surrounding addiction and substance abuse. "Awareness would help," he said. "Everyone can see it
(the issue). Everyone knows it's there, but it's hard to tackle. This
tends to be chronic and ongoing throughout people's lives."
Taylor said the main message can be lost when an
amount as high as $40 billion is mentioned. He said the number is so
large that people can't always grasp what it means. "These are tax
dollars," he said. "So what does it actually cost you? About $1,250 per
year per person is going to treat an abuser or is lost as a result of
consumption. The main message is that this does affect everybody.
Everybody deals with it at some point in some way. Substance abuse is
not even just a health-care problem. It's a social issue. And these
costs have nothing to do with emotional costs."
The numbers compiled for the study were based on
statistics from 2002. Jeff Wilbee, executive director of Addictions
Ontario, said he believed the numbers for 2006 would probably be even
more alarming than those between 1992 and 2002. "These figures got my attention," he said. "It would
seem to me that logic would say we need to take a hard look at this. We
know there's a problem but we don't really want to face it. What gets
lost is the human face of this."
Wilbee said there is not enough intervention or
treatment programs for those suffering from addictions. He said Ontario
needs to be more strategic in facing these issues and broadening
research to better manage the information surrounding addiction in the
province. "We are making some headway," he said. "But we need to
invest more money in looking at prevention. We know our children, our
grandchildren, the vast majority of them are going to experiment. Maybe
we can delay the age they start to experiment. We don't need to stick
our heads in the sand. We, as a community, need to take these kinds of
number very seriously."
Wilbee encouraged the public to take a look at the
events provided by In the Mind's Eye to gain a better understanding of
addiction on a local level. "Groups like this will change things more
than policy makers," he said.
Upcoming In the Mind's Eye events include workshops
about crystal methamphetamine, crack cocaine and substance use during
pregnancy, the early years and in youth; as well as films highlighting
different aspects of addiction and substance use.
Cost of substance abuse in Canada Based on
statistics from 2002
- $39.8 billion per year - tobacco ($17 billion),
alcohol ($14.6 billion) and illegal drugs ($8.2 billion);
- 18 per cent of all hospital days in acute care are
related to substance use;
- 15 per cent of all psychiatric hospitalizations;
- more than 600,000 acute care hospital diagnoses;
- approximately 320,000 admissions to inpatient and
- 9,827,935 total days of treatment; and
- more than one million days in bed (about $62
million in lost income).
Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Julianna Kerr
3 October 2006