NEWS RELEASE · 16th November 2011
"My story is the story of many. There was a vicious circle in my life that needed to be broken."
That's how Joe Roberts, known as the Skid Row CEO, describes the addiction that ultimately led him to a detox centre and a six-month treatment program where he was helped by workers he calls "saviors."
While most people with substance addictions aren't celebrated, their stories can be a source of inspiration and strength to others.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse supports National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) and Drug Addiction Week (DAW) - from November 14-20 - and takes this opportunity to educate Canadians about the harms associated with addiction.
"The harmful use of alcohol and other drugs and substances costs the Canadian economy $40 billion per year," said Michel Perron, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.
"The way to address the problem is to create a better understanding about substance abuse and the other addictions that burden so many individuals in our society."
NAAW is observed annually in Canada during the third week of November. It focuses on the harm caused by alcohol, drugs, tobacco and gambling, and raises public awareness of addiction issues so that communities can respond and help those who struggle with addictions.
Communities and organizations that help substance abusers are holding activities and events across the country this week to mark National Addictions Awareness Week.
"Thanks to the dedication and commitment of thousands of workers in the fields of health promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery, addicts can get help and lift themselves out of their despair," said Perron.
Perron points to Joe Roberts as evidence that addicts can rebuild their lives. In 1989 Roberts was living under a bridge as a homeless skid row addict. Today he is an author, CEO and internationally sought after professional speaker who motivates and inspires audiences worldwide.
Speaking at the CCSA-hosted Issues of Substance 2011 conference on addictions and substance abuse in Vancouver last week, Joe Roberts said: "It took a generation to make drunk-driving uncool and I think it's going to take a generation or two for people to get their head wrapped around the idea that addiction and alcoholism is a disease not a moral deficiency."
NAAW coincides with National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week, which focuses on the empowerment and capacity-building of First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals, families and organizations that contribute to creating positive, safe and healthy environments.
"Substance abuse was recently identified as the number one concern of Aboriginal people," said Perron. "One of CCSA's priorities is to work closely with First Nations, Metis and Inuit people to identify and share innovative new practices to help them overcome addictions."
New approaches include using traditional culture, indigenous knowledge and practice, and traditional healing methods to treat Aboriginal people, as people heard last week at Issues of Substance 2011.
"The twin of physical existence is spiritual existence," Elder Campbell Papequash told delegates. "For the people to completely heal, they must seek to develop themselves spiritually, and find a balance between the physical and spiritual worlds."
"You've got a human being that's trapped, and let's not judge them, let's treat them," said Joe Roberts. "Let's find ways to assist and give them a hand up and not a hand out."
With a legislated mandate to reduce alcohol- and other drug-related harms, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) provides leadership on national priorities, fosters knowledge translation within the field and creates sustainable partnerships that maximize collective efforts.
CCSA receives funding support from Health Canada.
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