Information on Drugs, Alcohol and Interventions in Alberta
When thinking about an alcohol or drug intervention in Alberta, it is helpful to understand the predominance of the various drugs and their activities within the state. Located in western Canada, Alberta is one of only two Canadian Provinces which is completely land-locked. Abounding in natural beauty, Alberta is a largely rural province, and around two-thirds of its inhabitants live in the two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton. The capital, Edmonton, is the primary supply and service hub for Canada’s oil sands, and other northern resource industries. Alberta’s economy is one of the strongest in Canada, supported by the burgeoning petroleum industry and to a lesser extent, agriculture and technology. However, Albertans are not immune to the scourge of drug and alcohol addiction found throughout the rest of Canada.
- Nearly 80% of Canadians aged 15 years and older drink, but most drink in moderation and without harm.
- 17% of past-year drinkers are considered high-risk drinkers according to the World Health Organization’s Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).
- High-risk drinkers are predominantly males and those under the age of 25. Cannabis and other drug use:
- 14% of Canadians reported using cannabis in the past year, nearly double the rate reported in 19(7.4%); however, almost 46% of these people had not used cannabis or had used it only once or twice in the three months preceding the survey.
- 30% of 15-17 year olds and just over 47% of 18-19 year olds reported having used cannabis in the past year.
- Although about 1 in 6 Canadians has used an illicit drug other than cannabis in their lifetime, few have used these drugs during the past year. Past-year rates are generally 1% or less.
- Both lifetime and past-year use of illicit substances other than cannabis is highest among men and those aged 18-24.
In 2003, approximately 3,740 kilograms of cocaine were seized in Canadian-related interdictions: 1,229 kilograms within Canada and an additional 2,511 kilograms abroad en route to the Canadian market. In 2003, approximately 60 kilograms of heroin were seized in Canadian-related interdictions: 35 kilograms within Canada and an additional 25 kilograms abroad en route to the Canadian market. As in 2002, the interdiction rate remains low. This does not, however, reflect a change in the supply and demand for this narcotic on the Canadian market. The availability and purity of heroin have not declined, while prices have remained stable. Groups traditionally involved in heroin trafficking have expanded their activities to other substances, namely marihuana, Ecstasy and methamphetamine. The huge profit margin generated by these other drugs could explain this expansion.
Marijuana cultivation is by no means a new phenomenon in Canada. It has been practiced for several decades from coast to coast. Today, the extent of this illicit activity, the involvement of organized crime, and the potency of the drug are what differentiate the current situation from that which prevailed before the early nineties. Trafficking and use of controlled synthetic drugs have become firmly entrenched in the Canadian illegal drug culture. While the rave phenomenon served as the primary vehicle for the proliferation of Ecstasy trafficking and use, it also led to the introduction of other club drugs and the resurgence of established illicit synthetics, notably methamphetamine. The unprecedented rise in illegal synthetic drug use is a direct by-product of raves (all-night dance parties) and the club drug scene. However, representative sampling indicates that the use of synthetic drugs is expanding from these traditional areas to more mainstream use. While youth and young adults remain the main users of synthetic drugs, there are also increasing reports of adult usage. The synthetic drug trade is multidimensional, involving importation, exportation, domestic production and trafficking. In Canada, it has evolved from a relatively small market to a huge profit-making opportunity, enticing major organized crime networks to reap the benefits of this lucrative international enterprise.
In Canada, surveys conducted among high school students indicate an increase in methamphetamine use among that population. Data on fluctuations in use among the adult population are not available. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated that ‘methamphetamine is the most widely used illicit drug after marijuana’. Concomitantly, the domestic production and trafficking of methamphetamine has dramatically increased while its distribution and use have reportedly skyrocketed in some regions of Canada. The continued increase in methamphetamine popularity will be a considerable source of harm to consumers and a negative impact on the environment, as experienced in the U.S.
- It is not uncommon for drug traffickers involved in conspiracies to import cocaine, Ecstasy, and liquid cannabis resin to also control various marijuana grow installations in Canada.
- Marijuana cultivation continues to spread throughout the country. The exportation of Canadian marijuana to the United States is increasing.
- The importation of hundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine into Canada is carried out mainly via sailing or fishing boats. This trend departs from previous years when the preferred smuggling method involved the use of marine containers.
- The decrease in hashish seizures over the past years could be attributable to a combination of factors: the impact of major enforcement actions in 2002, changes in national enforcement priorities, and a perceived waning popularity of this drug in favor of marijuana.
- The importation of Ecstasy from Europe (notably, the Netherlands) to Canada continues at a significant level. At the same time, the domestic manufacture of Ecstasy and its analogue, MDA, appears to be on the rise.
- Almost 29% of lifetime drinkers in Alberta reported experiencing harm to at least one life area as a result of their drinking during their lifetime, and almost 10% of those who used alcohol in the year preceding the survey experienced harm related to alcohol over that time.
- 26.1% of lifetime illicit drug users reported experiencing harm to at least one life area as a result of their illicit drug use at some point during the year preceding the survey. The most common types of harm associated with illicit drug use were in the areas of physical health and friendships or social life.
Regrettably, with the extent of the addiction problem in Alberta, treatment options for those seeking recovery are few and far between. Many are forced to seek treatment elsewhere.
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Drug or Alcohol Interventions in Alberta
It is not uncommon for someone seeking an interventionist to want to limit their choices to an interventionist in Alberta. Granted, an Alberta interventionist might be “right around the corner”, and you could possibly save on the cost of a flight. But consider that Intervention Services USA is the largest intervention service providers in North America, delivering over 10 successful interventions per week. A therapist in Alberta who has provided counseling to addicts and alcoholics is not necessarily an expert in the field of drug and alcohol interventions. Call now to speak to one of our qualified substance abuse counselors and Alberta intervention specialists to understand the difference.
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