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National Addictions Awareness Week: Words Matter

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The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) joins the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) in observing National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW), November 12-18, 2017. This annual, national awareness week highlights issues and solutions to help address alcohol and other drug-related harms.

The theme for NAAW 2017 is “Words Matter”, focusing on how the use of stigmatizing language can perpetuate false and harmful myths around substance use and addiction, and act as a barrier to recovery.

Why do Words Matter?

Language can affect how the public thinks about substance use and recovery. Research demonstrates that the use of certain words and terminology can create biases that influence how society treats people and groups. Words can also have an impact on the individual who uses substances, impacting how people think about themselves, and about their ability to make changes in their lives, including whether or not to seek health care.

While words can cause and perpetuate stigma, they also have the power to undo stigma. Using the “language of recovery” can inspire hope and promote recovery. Below, we have included a guide outlining the “language of recovery”, including simple changes you can make in your vocabulary to help break down the stigma surrounding substance use.

Leading by Example:

The Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction changed its name this year, eliminating the term “Substance Abuse”. This is an acknowledgment that words do, indeed, matter.

Fast Facts About Substance Use:

In any given year 6.7 million Canadians will deal with a mental health issue. Substance
use disorder is the second most common mental health problem

Surveys show that 20% of Canadians have met the criteria for a substance use disorder during their lifetime

Alcohol is most the most common substance in substance use disorders in Canada

Genetics play a large role in the risk of developing substance use disorder
»» Studies suggest that genetic factors contribute to 40-60% of vulnerability in                     developing a substance use disorder

Disruptions in brain development that affect fear and reward processing can be a risk  factor for substance use disorder

One’s environment could be a risk factor for developing substance use disorder. This could include severe early stress, prenatal exposure to drugs and peer influence

Approximately 20% of people with mental illnesses also have a substance use disorder

People with mental illnesses are twice as likely to develop a substance use disorder than people without mental illness.

People with substance use disorders are 3x more likely to have a co-occurring mental illness.

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