Our expensive addiction problem
Costs aren't just financial, they are human lives too
Addiction can reach out with its powerful tentacles at any time and crush any one of us or someone we love in its grasp. Once in its grip, it can be a lifelong battle, or a fight to the death. What compounds the problem in Atlantic Canada is a lack of places to turn to for help, especially in rural parts of the province. Recent stories told by SaltWire Network have underscored this harsh reality and point to the need for stronger supports, particularly in terms of helping people at the earlier stages of their struggle, including youth. A story by SaltWire reporter Chris Lambie last week told of a lawyer who was so exasperated with trying to get help for her client when he was sentenced to time served and probation for his latest break and enters, that she took drastic measures. Craig Boutilier has intellectual challenges and has been addicted to cocaine for years. He often turned to crime to finance his drug purchases. His lawyer, Sarah White, said doors were closed everywhere she went looking for assistance for him. She was so frustrated that she subpoenaed his social worker with the provincial disability program to testify that there were, in fact, no options for Boutilier. A supportive housing space subsequently opened up for him and he is doing well with the help of caregivers and Narcotics Anonymous. For too many families caught up in the waking nightmare of addiction, there are no doors to even knock on. Talk to parents of an addicted child and you will hear about the constant dead ends in the frantic quest for services, particularly if that child is under 19 years old. Outside cities, the lack of services is even more profound. Parents say wait times for the scarce services that are available are often months long. They will tell you that by the time help is at hand, an addicted child may no longer be ready or willing to avail of it, although they were months earlier. Others have died from overdoses, or nearly did, while they waited. Rehabilitation programs are often not covered by family drug plans and can cost thousands of dollars a month. Like in some cases over $10,000 or more a month. Even if a family can come up with the money to cover one stint of rehab, how can they afford to pay for the second or third or fourth that is needed? Or even a stay that extends beyond 30 days? No one chooses addiction. No child says they want to be a drug addict when they grow up. It's a horrible condition that can turn people inside out, tear families apart, cause terrible physical and mental anguish, and lead to violence and crime. And yes, people also die. And those who don't often live a life of misery. It's clear there is a real need for more services and earlier interventions. And again, its needed in rural areas. Not everyone has the option of traveling hundreds of kilometres from their home for help. Will it take taxpayers' money to address the problem? Yes, it will. But right now, people are paying with their lives.