Why talk about drug use and addiction?

Why talk about drug use and addiction?

Substance abuse is active on our streets, in our homes, in our community and in our society. It is a significant problem in our community of Vernon, BC. Discussing drug use and addiction is crucial to understanding and addressing this complex issue. Drug addiction involves compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered a brain disorder. It affects millions of people worldwide, impacting not only individuals but also their families, communities, and society at large.

We care for people struggling with drug use and addiction every day at the Upper Room Mission. Not all of our guests have substance use disorders, but many do. Understanding substance use disorder helps us better serve the people struggling with addiction. Better understanding as a community, I hope, would help us reduce the stigma associated with drug use and move towards supporting those who need help.

In 2020, we estimated substance use (SU) costs people in Canada more than $49 billion and led to the loss of over 200 lives every day. The report analyses substance use costs by four key categories. In addition to lost productivity (45.6% of the total costs), healthcare costs accounted for $13.4 billion (27.4%). Criminal justice costs were $10 billion (20.3%), while other direct costs contributed $3.3 billion (6.7%). These figures illustrate how substance use disorders can be found in many aspects of our everyday lives and that solutions are needed to address them. (data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction) 

In 2023, in British Columbia, there were 2,511 suspected unregulated drug deaths. According to the BC Coroners Services, this is the highest number of deaths ever recorded in a year, a 5% higher number of deaths in 2022 (2,383). You can read more about the numbers here.

Drug use and addiction can have harmful consequences for people of all ages:

  • Teens: Teenagers who use drugs may exhibit behavioural issues and struggle academically, potentially leading to dropping out of school. Drug use during this developmental stage can cause lasting changes in the brain, increasing the risk of dependence.
  • Adults: Adults who use drugs may experience cognitive impairments, including difficulties with thinking, memory, and attention. Their drug use can also lead to negative social behaviours, impacting their work performance and personal relationships.¬†
  • Parents: Drug use among parents can create chaotic and stressful home environments, increasing the risk of child abuse and neglect. These conditions can harm the well-being and development of children, potentially perpetuating a cycle of drug use in the next generation.
  • Babies: Babies exposed to drugs in the womb may be born prematurely and underweight. This exposure can impact their learning abilities and behaviour later in life. Additionally, they may develop a dependency on opioids or other drugs used by the mother during pregnancy, leading to neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Drug addiction and homelessness

Drug use and addiction have a deep and tangled relationship with homelessness. 

We interact daily with people who struggle with homelessness and addiction at the Upper Room Mission. By talking about it, we can help raise awareness about the factors that contribute to drug addiction and discuss the importance of prevention, early intervention, and effective treatment options if we desire to see a change in the number of deaths we have been experiencing here in our community of Vernon, our province and country.`

When we understand addiction, the issues that influence drug use, and the experiences of those affected, we hope we can encourage you to promote our work towards creating a society, a community, that supports the health and well-being of all its members, including people struggling with addiction and homelessness.

At the Upper Room Mission, it is our vision to see people exit homelessness, poverty or addiction, and it is our mission to daily care for and improve the lives of people living in poverty, homelessness or addiction in our community. Understanding the problem of substance use allows us to care for those struggling and gives us the compassion and motivation to help. 

We are just starting this conversation and scratching the surface of complexity and solutions. Feel free to write a comment below. We love to hear from those with experience. Let’s keep the conversation going. Here are some questions to consider.

  1. Do I understand drug addiction/substance abuse? 
  2. What do you feel when you see someone using drugs?
  3. What do you think about a person struggling with addiction?

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