Are you in the dark when it comes to the reality of substance use in our communities?
Did you know that alcohol is the most common addiction and most widely abused substance in Newfoundland and Labrador?
What many people do not realize is that with such widespread use comes a whole host of issues and health risks.
How can we reduce the risks?
The Canadian Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines were developed to assist Canadians in making informed choices about alcohol consumption and to promote a culture of moderation. These guidelines outline what constitutes a standard drink to ensure that people are aware of what they are consuming, i.e. what appears to be one drink, may actually be two!
The guidelines also explain that you can reduce long-term health risks by drinking no more than:
- 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than two drinks a day most days.
- 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than three drinks a day most days.
So what are some of the long-term health risks?
Here are some facts to help put it into perspective.
- Drinking 3.5 drinks a day can double or even triple the risk of developing some cancers – including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast and colon and rectum.
- Alcohol is the second leading risk factor for death, disease and disability, with tobacco use being the number one risk factor.
How is my substance use impacting my life?
Sometimes, a person may not realize they are, in fact, reliant on a substance/drug, such as alcohol – and probably lack some understanding of what an addiction really is.
Addiction is classified by the World Health Organization as a chronic relapsing brain disease.
For those with addictions, the world can sometimes be a dark and discouraging place.
A person may recognize that their substance use is creating issues for them and negatively impacting parts of their lives, such as family relationships, finances, employment and health.
People at risk of addiction may also keep using the substance despite the negative consequences to them and feel that they no longer have control over their use.
Dealing with problematic substance use – What are we doing to help?
Throughout the year, we look for many opportunities to get out and discuss addictions and substance abuse issues with various groups. One example is all the great work done by our team during National Addictions Awareness Week.
This year, we held open forums in Marystown on November 17, 2014 and in St. John’s on November 24, 2014. Close to 100 people participated in the forums, including representatives from Eastern Health, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, social work students, community partners, stakeholders, interested community members and individuals from the recovery community.
The forums focused on a range of topics in order to increase awareness and understanding surrounding addictions issues in our region, including:
- understanding addictions (with a focus on the brain and addiction),
- alcohol and culture (with a focus on low-risk drinking, alcohol use and connection to other chronic health issues),
- drug impaired driving (with a focus on marijuana), and
- harm reduction (with a focus on methadone maintenance treatment).
Kim Grant, Eastern Health’s Regional Director of Mental Health and Addictions, was very pleased with the outcome:
“At the end of the forums, we heard a great deal of positive feedback from participants who stated that they learned many new things that they will take back and use in their own work and share with others. Many of those we spoke with noted that this was one of the first times they heard of standard drink sizes and how drugs like marijuana can impair your ability to drive.”
Kim added: “This feedback highlights just how important it is to continue bringing awareness to addictions issues in our communities not just during Addictions Awareness Week, but all year long.” ■
Mental Health and Addictions at Eastern Health
Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program offers many services to support those struggling with alcohol/drug related problems, including:
- Addictions counselling services throughout the entire region in community-based offices, inpatient settings, as well as travelling clinics.
- Counselling services to people of all ages who are either living with an addiction or to those supporting someone who is coping with addiction.
- The Provincial Detox Program, the Provincial Opioid Treatment Centre and the Rowan Centre for Youth located in Pleasantville in St. John’s.
If an individual living in the St. John’s area would like to speak with someone about their substance use or would like to talk to someone about how to help a loved one, they can call the Adult Central Intake Service at 709-752-8888 or the Children/Youth Central Intake Service at 709-777-2200.
For all other areas in the Eastern Health region, please contact Mental Health and Addictions at your local community services office.
In addition, addictions service providers can refer individuals to the Humberwood Adult Addictions Treatment Centre in Corner Brook and the Youth Addictions Treatment Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Eastern Health also operates the following help lines for those looking for somewhere to turn:
- Mental Health Crisis Line (709) 737-4668 or 1-888-737-4668
(24-hour provincial crisis line with Mobile Crisis Response for the St. John’s and surrounding area)
- Gambling Help Line 1-888-899-4357
(24-hour support for individuals impacted by their own or someone else’s gambling)
This story was written by Tracey Sharpe-Smith, Addictions Prevention Consultant for Rural Avalon and Peninsulas of Eastern Health.