Jul 2

Indigenous Addiction Treatment in Canada

Indigenous addiction treatment in CanadaIndigenous addiction treatment in Canada is an important component of boosting First Nations mental health and wellness. There are many drug rehabs and alcohol treatment programs in Canada, and some serve specific populations. For example, last month we wrote about LGBT specific drug and alcohol treatment in Canada.  This blog will explain why there is a need for indigenous specific treatment and how to access publicly funded First Nations drug and alcohol programs.


Indigenous Addiction Treatment in Canada

The federal government funds the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) which incorporates prevention, research, treatment, and training. There are many NNADAP funded programs across the country. However, there are also provincial bodies that are First Nations specific. For example, BC has the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) which helps facilitate 10 residential treatment centres in the province that are NNADAP funded. These treatment centres are relatively evenly spread across the province giving more coverage to rural communities. While services and client type varies between facilities, these drug and alcohol rehabs accept those with physical disabilities, concurrent disorders, clients stabilized on methadone or Suboxone, and clients on prescribed psychoactive medication.

The federal government has a list of all its NNADAP funded facilities here. BC has 11, Alberta has 7, Saskatchewan has 10, Manitoba has 5, Ontario has 10, Quebec has 6, and the Atlantic provinces share 6 (though there are none on PEI). The majority of these Canadian drug and alcohol treatment facilities are inpatient and many offer outpatient services as well. While they provide much of the same treatment you would receive in a regular publicly funded program, they usually centre traditional healing methods. Traditional healing often takes place on the land and can involve different kinds of cultural ceremonies. FNHA defines traditional healing as the “health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating First Nations healing and wellness while using ceremonies; plant, animal, or mineral-based medicines; energetic therapies; or physical/hands on techniques”.


Why Conventional Treatment Can Benefit From Traditional Healing

A 2012 study published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy looked at cultural interventions to indigenous addiction treatment in Canada and the USA. Just over half of the programs the study looked at were residential, and all of them integrated both Western and “culture-based” treatment services. While there was a wide range of traditional healing methods implemented, sweat lodge ceremonies were used in 68% of treatment programs. The results showed that all areas of wellness were improved in these programs, particularly in reducing or eliminating substance use problems. Although the study concedes that more research needs to be done, there is strong evidence that traditional healing in addiction treatment is beneficial in all areas of wellness. If you are looking for more indigenous addiction treatment options have a look at our First Nations specific treatment page or contact our specialist for help.



JMC 2018.06.19

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