Date Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
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Karen James from Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services works closely with drug and alcohol addicts. Some are adults in recovery, others are teenagers who abuse hard drugs and alcohol.
She’s worked in the field for 17 years and on March 29, James attended a workshop where she learned even more about dealing with youth who have substance abuse issues, hearing stories from colleagues in related areas.
“So far it’s interesting, and I think it’s laying a framework that will be very helpful for people in the field,” said James, who was on break from the workshop that took place at the Hellenic Meeting and Reception Centre on Prince of Wales Drive.
About 170 youth workers from education, youth justice, employment, Aboriginal youth services and children/youth mental health services gathered at the centre to hear about a document put together by Addictions Ontario that was developed by experts and includes best practices for helping clients with substance abuse issues.
“We’re looking at a collective experience of people and bringing them together,” said Dave Roy, director of addiction services at HopeGreyBruce Mental Health and Addiction Services in Owen Sound.
The document was launched in 2008 and has been presented to workers across Ontario.
“We wanted it to be a live document, and keep it fresh,” said Deborah Irwin, manager of Algoma Family Services based in Sault Ste. Marie.
Roy said the document outlines what is most effective in helping young people with addiction problems.
For example, he said harm reduction is outlined as an effective way of helping people with addictions. Harm reduction, explained Roy, is about helping people who aren’t ready to quit.
“If they’re not ready to change, we look at what’s the best we can do until they get to the point where they want to stop,” Roy said, adding that he deals with youth who are involved in binge drinking. “Harm reduction says to look at your drinking and ask if there’s any way we can reduce it so it’s not as harmful. So you’re not drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning, you can reduce it back and that’s a start.”
Roy also said that alcohol is the most widely used substance and it kills more young people than all other illegal drugs combined.
Irwin added that alcohol is a major issue that addiction professionals face with their clients because it’s so readily available.
“Society tends not to look at alcohol as being a substance that can be misused,” she said. “It’s more socially acceptable than drug use.”
James, who also works with high schools in the area, said she’s noticed more young people using hard drugs like OxyContin and opiates.
She added that mental illness and addictions go hand in hand, and the issue of addiction is complex.
“Mental health issues are often hiding underneath addiction,” James said. “Addiction needs to get more focused on and right now, it isn’t. Addicts are not people to be thrown away. Youth are at risk and we need to be open and understanding of the origins of addictions.”
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