• Clarke Kennedy

Addiction: Bringing Awareness to a Widespread Epidemic

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Why teens and young people are turning to addiction to numb their pain.

Any addiction thrives when a person is isolated from their support system. This pandemic has made it easier for many people to fall into addiction. In order to cope with their overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, many have turned to alcohol and drugs. According to a CAMH survey done in July 2020, 32% of Canadians aged 18-39 reported binge drinking during the previous week.[1] That percentage would likely be higher if teens under 18 were also factored in. Another troubling statistic is that there was a 25% rise in drug-related deaths reported by Ontario’s Chief Coroner during the beginning of the pandemic.[2]

How can we as a community combat this massive issue? First of all, we need to bring addiction counselling resources to the forefront. Many people do not know where to reach out for help. There is also a great deal of shame and secrecy revolving around substance abuse issues. This guilt can cause people to numb their pain with more drug use. Removing the stigma many people have around addictions in general can allow people to be more willing to admit they have a problem.

Addiction is not just a term surrounding substance abuse issues. Gambling, shopping, and even social media can all become addictive habits. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter which is released when we are doing something rewarding. This becomes problematic when we rely too heavily on external substances to give us our desired “dopamine hit.” Any one of us are susceptible to addictive tendencies. Genetics and family history are also contributing factors which can make people more prone to addictive behaviours.

If you are suffering from a serious addiction that has life-threatening effects, seek help as soon as possible. There are many addiction counseling services in the GTA. Here is a list of resources and centres in the area - https://www.torontocentralhealthline.ca/listservices.aspx?id=10095.

What if someone close to you is suffering from addiction? Seeing someone we love spiral out of control can make us feel completely powerless. Working with a counselor to intervene through an intervention can potentially save this person’s life. It is also important to not enable a person’s addiction. Enabling often happens when we care for someone in the wrong way. Supplying drugs, money, and transportation for addicts will only worsen their problem.

If we truly want a person with addiction to find healing, we need to make difficult choices. Pushing them towards rehab will most likely be a challenging process. It is vital to have healthy boundaries with loved ones suffering from addiction. Taking on all their burdens will inevitably take a toll on our mental health. There is hope for those struggling with addiction. Just don’t try to face this battle alone.

[1] https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19/covid-19-national-survey [2] https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/o/2020/opioid-mortality-covid-surveillance-report.pdf?la=en#:~:text=Overall%2C%20there%20was%20a%2038.2,average%20of%2034%20deaths%20weekly).&text=will%20be%202%2C271%20opioid%2Drelated,the%20end%20of%20the%20year.

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