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I have been in the field of substance abuse, helping others since 1998. Having struggled with my addiction to illicit drugs, including hallucinogens, I have been drug and alcohol-free for over 20 years. 

Throughout my career, I have seen almost every type of substance abuse in our current society. From cough syrup abuse and animal tranquillizers to huffing propane and any other poison. Having worked in a successful private drug rehab in Canada as its case manager for close to 12 years gave me a unique platform to observe the addiction issue up close.

A crowd going up stairway

2016 – CBC News Report

This text is not about the addict and their condition. It is about the social-economical-political problems surrounding the issue, in line with the September 11, 2016 report by Yvette Brend and Manjula Dufresne—CBC News* BC, on the existing problems families face when seeking help. 

I quote: “Wait times can be as long as six months for the places in high demand, but many rehabs won’t tell you that. They just say a bed is just coming up. The addict must call in every day and try to snag it. Mothers say that can translate into weeks, even months. A call and a failure every day.”

Why is it this way?

One can ask oneself, “Why is it this way?” There is no simple, reasonable response. The problem is not just in BC; you can see this across the country. As a counsellor of a referral and consultation service, we hear this daily. 

After a while, one begins to question what is wrong with the system. I decided to investigate by contacting various doctors, physicians, and social workers, including public addiction counsellors. 

I intended to find a common denominator for the issue of community addiction treatment bottlenecks. Society needs fast, effective, and professional help with substance abuse. Although I wasn’t posing as a parent, my questions were similar to those the CBC reporters asked. The responses I got were identical.

Is Addiction Treatment viewed as Important?

During my research, I came across some intriguing insights, particularly in the realm of politics and finance. It was brought to my attention that each year, a national budget is set, with specific allocations for education, defence, healthcare, and other sectors. This is where the issue of addiction treatment funding comes into play. 

Okay, let’s look at the healthcare budget. The federal government takes the billions issued for healthcare and distributes it to the provinces. Some of the funds are available for new hospitals, medical machinery, etc. Most of which are expected to have a return. 

They are assets. Treatment of addiction is seen as an expenditure, not an investment, so the lowest funds are distributed to these. The same goes for the legal system, which includes incarceration, arrest, legal aid, etc. There is no return, only expenditure.

One can see that with fewer funds, you get fewer services. Our leaders do not realize that creating good, affordable detox and rehab with easy access is worthwhile. They do not see that achieving results with addiction for the less fortunate might just be an investment. 

A recovered drug or alcohol abuser now becomes a productive member of society. The person becomes a “taxpayer” lowers crime, puts less stress on the legal system, fewer broken homes, etc. That is the budget and economics viewpoint. There is another side, a bit more sinister, though.


Social Betterment & HRI

(Harm Reduction International)

Social aspects include the introduction of Harm Reduction in the early 1980s. Though this approach has good elements, the other side has taken us by storm. Consider the pharmaceutical drugs that are being prescribed to treat addiction. Halting the increase of beds and qualified staff per province leaves many in need waiting at the doorsteps for help.

It’s not long before a struggling addict begins to crave and enters the stage of withdrawal while waiting. Harm reduction opens the door to solutions to curb the symptoms and allow them to stay strong enough until a bed becomes available. Yet harm reduction saves lives. And many can attest to the benefits in the stride society has made since its inception.

But the fact remains that the problem still exists where people cannot enter a low-cost, efficient, high-care detox and rehab. So, I ask, do we have a reduction of harm? Or is it just a billion-dollar revenue product for the pharmaceutical companies?


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Marc J. Bernard

Substance Use Disorder & Recovery Professional,
Referral & Consultation Counsellor

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