In an effort to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and work toward better treatment options, Ottawa held its first Canadian National Recovery Summit. This meeting organized by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse was a part of a campaign to bring more awareness to people in recovery and give them a chance to feel that they are accepted and understood by society.
Presenters at the summit included Michael Bryant, a former attorney general and a recovering alcoholic who believes that changing the way people view addiction can help reduce the total number of addicts. He said that people who are not addicted can help those in recovery by identifying, understanding and seeing them as friends and family rather than people to be feared and judged.
Addicts need to be understood and treated with compassion so that they can finally recover and regain a normal life.
The Social Stigma of Addiction
Addiction is particularly an issue that needs to be addressed in Canada where 5 million residents of the country are living in long term recovery working steady jobs and raising their families. Speakers at the summit asserted that stereotypes and myths about addicts still permeate modern society and many people in recovery still hesitate to speak out about their experiences with addiction.
They fear that they will be treated differently or judged based on preconceived notions of what it means to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Ann Dowsett, one of the founding directors of Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada says that it can be beneficial for many people to leave behind their anonymity and be more honest and vulnerable about their past.
She says that addicts in long term recovery can be an example to people who are still struggling and can help them make the decision to go into recovery themselves.
A New Vision for Addiction Recovery
The Canadian summit brought together 50 delegates representing service providers, the research community and addiction organizations to focus on their goals related to addiction recovery. Those at the summit discussed how to establish a vision for Canada on recovery, raising awareness, addressing stigma and celebrating how the solution of recovery can improve people's lives.
The addiction recovery community in Canada feels that a new vision is important because as of 2012, 4.4% of Canadians met the criteria for a substance use disorder. In spite of this significant number, accessing care and treatment can be challenging for people in Canada with barriers to receiving timely and effective supports and services.
There is a lack of addiction recovery service in rural areas, a fragmented system of care, long wait lists and wait times as well as a shortage of medical detox facilities. Receiving treatment can be too complex and difficult to navigate for someone who needs help.
Those at the summit also feel that social stigma can play a role in whether or not addicts seek recovery. For someone struggling with an illness the fear of being judged may hold them back from entering a recovery center where they will have to be more honest about their problem.
The goal of the summit was to create a vision on how to improve care in the field of addiction recovery and how to bring awareness to the solution of recovery so people will not be afraid to seek help. If Canada is able to reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction, more people will feel comfortable enough to come forward and ask for help for their addiction problems.
While it can be helpful for people to remain anonymous in recovery, speaking out about addiction can be healing and encourage others to get help instead of suffering in silence.