Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances among Canadians. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, hospitalizations due to alcohol-related harms and overall alcohol consumption increased during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. High-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder (AUD) have significant and widespread health, social, and economic consequences. The Government of Canada recognizes that the effects of problematic alcohol use present a serious public health and safety issue that affects individuals and communities across the country, especially within the context of the pandemic.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced nearly $2 million over two years for three projects in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador to address alcohol-related harms, including AUD. The organizations receiving funding are Boyle Street Service Society, the McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association and the St. John’s Women’s Centre.
These projects will support treatment through a managed alcohol program, other substance use disorder initiatives, community training, capacity and awareness building and wrap-around supports, such as improving housing access. Through these initiatives, the organizations will provide assistance to women, Indigenous peoples, and people experiencing homelessness.
The Government of Canada is committed to addressing alcohol-related harms more broadly through a public health approach.
- Alcohol use is associated with more than 200 diseases and conditions (e.g., alcoholic liver cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder [FASD], cardiovascular disease and cancer) and alcohol-related harms cost Canadian society $16.6 billion in 2017, a higher cost than tobacco, cannabis, opioids or any other substance.
- According to recent data, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic between March and September 2020, hospitalizations due to alcohol-related harms rose by 5%. Between October and December 2020, about 30% of Canadians reported that their alcohol consumption had increased since the start of the pandemic.
- To further help people dealing with problematic substance use and tackle the ongoing overdose crisis, the Government recently announced in Budget 2021 an additional $116 million for the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). The funding would support a range of innovative approaches to harm reduction, treatment, and prevention at the community level.