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Is Addiction a Problem in Canada?

“What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.”
– Hecato

What is Addiction?

Addiction refers to a chronic condition related to all 3 pillars of health (biology, psychology and social factors). Risks for developing addiction span from a wide range, including behavioural aspects of one’s life to genetic influences. This in turn makes the population at risk for addiction non-homogeneous, as individuals from all walks of life or socio-economic status can find themselves battling an addiction. The mediator between biological and psychosocial factors is the brain. In fact, Studies on addiction and its relation to the brain has revealed that addiction is linked to reward pathways located in the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. Alteration of these areas due to certain drugs leads to changes in essential aspects of functioning such as reward, motivation, memory, and executive functioning involving behavioural control and judgement (APA, 2017).

Is addiction a problem in Canada?

Statistics Canada recently released a report on mental and substance use disorders. The insightful report indicated that at some point in their lives 21.6% of Canadians meet the criteria for substance use disorder (SUD). The most common drug used by Canadians is alcohol followed by marijuana (Statistic Canada, 2015). Although Canadian SUD mostly relates to alcohol and marijuana, Canada ranked second in the world for per-capita opioid use (Kane, 2016) causing the recent surge of addiction problems, epidemic-like rates of overdose (CPHA, 2016) and increased costs and stress on healthcare delivery (Howlett, 2017).

Of further note, the Canadian Center of Substance Abuse has estimated the total of SUD related costs to be around 39.7 billion dollars annually. The financial implication is representative of the urgency to address and find solutions to reduce SUD in Canada. The financial burden relates to indirect costs such as losses in productivity (61%), health care costs (22%), law enforcement costs (14%), and other direct costs (3%), ranging from car accidents to employee assistance (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2006).

Future Direction

By no means should costs justify decreases in care provided for individuals with SUD. Of further note, the costs do suggest that optimizing and improving the delivery of treatment and care for individuals with SUD should yield great gains to Canadians. As mentioned above, SUD is a trending crisis where each year the number of individuals affected increases. The issue at hand must be addressed as soon as possible to stop the epidemic from growing to a size that will make it impossible to manage.

Are you or your loved one struggling with addiction? Speak to a representative at Terrace Wellness, we’re here to help. 


  • American Psychological Association. (2017). Addictions. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/addiction/
  • Statistic Canada. (2015). Health at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.htm
  • Kane, L. (2016). Canada ranked second in world for per-capita opioid use. Retrieved from http://globalnews.ca/news/2899965/canada-ranked-second-in-world-for-per-capita-opioid-use/
  • Canadian Public Health Association. (2016). The opioid crisis in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.cpha.ca/uploads/policy/opioid-statement_e.pdf
  • Howlett, K. (2017). A KILLER HIGH Canada’s expensive habit: Adding up opioid abuse’s rising financial toll on the health-care system. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/opioids/article31464607/
  • Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2006). Costs of Substance Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.cclt.ca/Eng/topics/Costs-of-Substance-Abuse-in-Canada/Pages/default.aspx

About Author

Tarek is a pre-med honors Health Psychology student at Carleton University, with a minor in Neuroscience and Mental Health. Currently, an undergraduate Health Psychology researcher, Tarek values the sharing of knowledge related to the biological, psychological, and social model of health.

Is Addiction a Problem in Canada? (16)

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