Addiction rates in Canada continue to be of concern. In 2015, over 77 per cent of Canadians reported having an alcoholic drink and the rates for young adults are even higher. Statistics Canada states that 2019 saw nearly 20 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older (roughly 5.9 million people) reporting alcohol consumption that classified them as ‘heavy drinkers.’ A heavy drinker is defined as consuming five or more drinks at one time in the last month for males and four or more drinks for females.
When alcohol is combined with other substances the potential risk of harm increases and pre-pandemic data from the 2019 Canadian Alcohol and Drugs Survey revealed that one in five Canadians reported having used cannabis in the last 12 months.
When the pandemic hit, Canadians experienced drastic lifestyle changes. The stress that was caused by lockdowns, a shift to work from home and job loss was challenging for many. Isolation and loneliness left many people feeling overwhelmed and likely contributed to the reported rise in substance use across the country.
While many people who engage in heavy drinking can limit the harms that stem from their alcohol consumption, others experience negative consequences that take a tremendous toll on their lives.
This includes chronic diseases such as:
- high blood pressure,
- heart and liver disease,
- digestive problems,
And poor work performance, failed relationships and missed opportunities are but a few.
Legal problems such as driving while under the influence, disorderly conduct, and assault result from the decreased inhibition and inability to make healthy choices that some people experience while intoxicated.
The shame and guilt that result from the stated behaviours as well as physical withdrawal can cause an individual to get stuck in a cycle.
This cycle requires them to use a substance to cope with their negative feelings of self and to avoid feeling physically unwell. Fear of being judged can keep people from asking for help thereby reinforcing isolation and loneliness. It comes as a tremendous relief for many of the centre’s clients to participate in therapy groups, helping them to connect with others who are experiencing the same challenges.
The Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing (CCCNIP) offers respectful, non-judgemental counselling and consultation to people who wish to discuss the impact alcohol is having on their lives.
CCCNIP provides confidential assessments that can help individuals identify if alcohol is creating risks in their life and help explore ways to reduce harms associated with the identified risks. The centre has counsellors with expertise across all ages and believes that people have a right to make choices that others may not understand.
The CCCNIP Executive Director Alan McQuarrie explains, “Because alcohol use can become embedded in our lives, it can be very difficult to change drinking habits once they are formed. Some people become dependent on alcohol and experience symptoms when they try to quit. Some people try reducing their use or quitting and start to feel helpless when they relapse.”
Client Lorraine says, “Addiction killed my husband and it almost killed me. My addiction was what I lived for. I can’t tell you how many years I spent going from binge to binge and never getting enough.”
He goes on to say that experts have identified five stages in the recovery process. The stages move from precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.
It is interesting to note how much change occurs prior to the ‘action’ phase of recovery. Most people jump right to the action phase when they think of recovery. In fact, effective change begins much earlier and provides the basis for lasting change.
To learn more about lasting change and how to reduce alcohol consumption, speak to one the CCCNIP’s experienced counsellors by calling (705) 472-6515. For more information, visit the CCCNIP website.