Drug Abuse Major Concern Among First Nations and Inuit

// // Posted in Aboriginal Health News, NAHO Blog, What's New at NAHO

The use of illicit drugs is a serious problem among First Nations, Inuit and Métis.  In 2002-2003 26.7% of First Nation adults used marijuana, compared to 14.1% in the Canadian population (Regional Health Survey, 2002-2003). Inuit communities have been even more impacted by illicit drugs, namely cannabis, cocaine and solvents.  Illicit drug users in the 12 months preceding a survey by the Nunavik Inuit Health Society in Nunavik was 60%, more than four times higher than that observed in Canada.  It shows that the rates of drug use have clearly increased over the past decade…Cannabis is by far the most commonly used drug in Nunavik. “Although it is used by 8 or 9 males out of 10 aged 15 to 24, its use is also widespread among females, as well as in the overall population under the age of 45” (Nunavik Inuit Health Survey, 2004).

Issues with drugs and alcohol are often not isolated to themselves.  Violence, abuse and harm to children in utero are among the effects of abuse, the cost of which is paid by the community as a whole year after year.  NAHO’s Inuit Tuttarvingat realizes that efforts to decrease drug dependencies begin at the community level.  Developing and maintaining prevention and support programs which work with the individual community’s situation and needs are key. There is no one size fits all solution.  Fortunately there are numerous programs leading the way in helping reclaim those lost to drugs and alcohol.

Often, because youth are most vulnerable to the temptation of drugs, addiction can begin.  This First Nations Centre fact sheet on Youth Substance Abuse gives basic information on drugs, prevention, how to know if there’s a problem and who to contact. In addition, the Making Your Home Safe for Your Baby toolkit gives information on the effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking on unborn children. Sadly, the issue of illicit drugs doesn’t seem to be decreasing. The good news is that there is plenty of help and information on the issue.

The Government of Canada’s Aboriginal Portal has resources dealing with addictions. The Partnership For a Drug Free Canada is also running a nationwide drug prevention campaign. Additionally, Health Canada provides helpful information on drug prevention strategies for Canadians. Focusing on prevention to address the sixty percent of illicit drug users who are 15 to 24 years old, the Canadian Centre on Substance abused has developed a five-year, $10-million national drug prevention initiative, A Drug Prevention Strategy for Canada’s Youth. This Strategy—which is part of the federal government’s National Anti-Drug Strategy—aims to reduce illicit drug use by Canadian youth between the ages of 10 to 24. Nobody plans to become addicted!

One of the largest First Nation communities in Atlantic Canada has taken the first steps this week in implementing an anti-drug strategy to reverse the culture of drug and alcohol. Social workers, health professionals, police, lawyers and government officials are working together to develop a comprehensive policy that will “lead the way as a model for other First Nation communities to use in their battle against drugs.” The community will use Canada’s National Anti-Drug Strategy as a model.

June 26 is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.  It is a United Nations International Day against drug abuse and the illegal drug trade. In 1987, the UN General Assembly decided to observe June 26 an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. The UN’s 2007 World Drug Report puts the value of the illegal drug trade at US$322 billion a year.

For more information on help to fight and avoid drug abuse, please visit www.naho.ca or email us at info@naho.ca.

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