The stigma around addiction prevents thousands of Canadians from seeking treatment each year. Many are under the misconception that substance abuse is a choice and that people with addictions suffer from a lack of willpower. In truth, addictions are diagnosable medical conditions known as substance use disorders. These disorders alter the structure of peoples’ brains, making them feel unable to stop using. Understanding the different types of addictions and their consequences can also help individuals find the motivation to finally get help.
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According to the latest statistics, 4% of Canadians use one or more different types of drugs. Meanwhile, 21% of Canadians use cannabis, and 76% drink alcohol.
Substance use is even more common in Ontario. 4.8% of Ontarians have a mental health disorder, including addiction. Compare that to 3.9% of people in Canada as a whole.
Alcohol is the most widely used substance in Canada. Drinking is a socially acceptable way to celebrate holidays, birthdays, and other events. In moderation, alcohol is relatively safe to consume.
Yet, 40% of Canadians over 15 drink more than six alcoholic beverages per week, a habit that presents a moderate to high risk of health complications. It is safer to consume two or fewer drinks per week.
Heavy drinking does not just present the risk of health complications. If someone continues to drink excessively or in the long term, they may develop an alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder.
Amphetamines are stimulants prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. They are legal with a valid prescription, but amphetamines are also produced, sold, and used illicitly.
Amphetamine-related visits to Ontario emergency departments increased by 15 times from 2003 to 2020. Experts believe this trend is related to the co-abuse of amphetamines and opioids.
Using amphetamines under a doctor’s supervision can reduce the potential for addiction. Abusing these stimulants without a prescription can cause addiction, explaining why inpatient admissions for amphetamine addiction are on the rise.
A recent study of stimulant use in Canada found that more people are abusing cocaine than ever, with a 30% rise in use from 2020 to 2021. Sadly, this drug is contributing to a high percentage of drug-related deaths.
Cocaine may have similar effects to amphetamines, but there is no legal way to obtain it. It presents a high risk of addiction and overdose and is categorized as a Schedule I drug.
Abusing cocaine commonly leads to dependence. Once someone develops an addiction, it can be particularly challenging to overcome. A treatment centre specializing in cocaine addiction offers the best hope for recovery.
A small number of Canadians use ecstasy, also known as MDMA. It is one of six illegal substances (cocaine, meth, ecstasy, hallucinogens, heroin, and salvia) with a combined use prevalence of 3% or about 1.1 million people.
Ecstasy and MDMA are Schedule I drugs. They can be addictive, especially when mixed with ketamine, cocaine, or other psychedelics. It is technically a stimulant, though the drug also has hallucinogenic effects.
Addiction is not the only concern about abusing ecstasy. Withdrawal symptoms can last for up to a week following the use of this drug, during which someone may sweat excessively, experience muscle cramps, and feel nauseous.
A recent study reports that more than 30,000 Canadians have died from opioid overdoses since 2016. In that time, opioid overdose has become the top cause of accidental death.
Fentanyl is fueling Canada’s current overdose crisis. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is illegal to produce, sell, possess, or use. It has contributed to more than 75% of Canada’s overdose deaths because it is incredibly potent.
Even if people manage to avoid overdose, fentanyl is still dangerous. It is highly addictive, whether obtained illegally or with a valid prescription.
Heroin is another potent opioid that has long contributed to Canada’s opioid crisis. Even in the early 2000s, experts estimated at least 125,000 Canadians were using injectable heroin. The number has since risen.
In 2016, prescription heroin became legal in Canada. While prescription heroin is also addictive, the majority of people who abuse this drug do so illegally. A very small number of patients are eligible for prescription heroin.
Aside from addiction, heroin presents the risk of overdose. Like fentanyl, it is incredibly potent and causes dangerous suppression of vital systems. The potential for overdose is even higher when combining heroin with other drugs.
Ketamine is a lesser-known drug used as an anesthetic for surgery. When prescribed by a health practitioner, it is legal. Ketamine abuse primarily takes place outside of medical settings.
Ketamine is a Schedule I drug, but its potential for addiction is controversial. Clinical studies have shown that medically supervised ketamine use may not present the potential for misuse or dependence. We need more research to verify this finding.
Some people do find ketamine’s effects pleasurable and, therefore, addictive. Signs someone may have a dependence on ketamine include tolerance and withdrawal symptoms upon stopping use.
October 2023 marked the fifth anniversary of cannabis legalization. The latest statistics report that 22% of Canadians over 15 use cannabis. The 18 to 24-year-old group consumes the most cannabis each year.
Cannabis may be legal, but it still presents risks. One in three people who use cannabis develop a problem. 9% of people who use cannabis, in general, and 17% of early cannabis users develop a substance use disorder.
Cannabis use can be low risk for adults in moderation. However, excessive or long-term use can lead to cannabis addiction, as well as an increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression.
Methamphetamine (meth) is an illicit street drug. Only around 0.2% of Canadians use this drug, but those who do put a disproportionate financial burden on the country’s health care system.
Methamphetamine use rates have also been trending upward with fentanyl’s rise. Some people report co-abusing fentanyl and meth to prolong the former drug’s effects.
Meth can cause harm to the user by increasing the risk of addiction, coma, seizures, stroke, and overdose. It also presents the risk of harm to others. Being high on meth causes agitation and paranoia that may lead to violence.
Prescription Drug Addiction
Amphetamines are not the only prescription drugs that present the risk of addiction. Opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines are other medications people abuse with and without a valid prescription.
It is hard to say exactly how many Canadians abuse prescription drugs. An older report found that Canada is among the top 10% of countries for abuse of opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants.
Using these medications with or without a prescription can cause tolerance and dependence. Other prescription drug addictions may result from barbiturate and sleeping pill abuse.
Over the last 25 years, there has been a 130.46% increase in research on behavioural addictions, showing a growing interest in treating these disorders.
Estimating the prevalence of behavioural addictions in Canada is challenging. Unlike people with drug and alcohol addictions, these individuals do not typically require medical attention and may not seek treatment due to shame or because they don’t recognize their problem.
Canada is the seventh largest consumer of pornography in the world, with the average person consuming 10 minutes of porn per day. Pornography consumption may not seem like a big deal to some, but it can lead to addiction.
Porn addictions are characterized by an increasing need for porn or being unable to stop consuming pornographic videos. Porn addictions can affect people’s relationships. For example, people who consume violent pornography are more likely to commit sexual violence.
Porn addiction alters the brain similarly to how chemical addiction does. It can be extremely difficult to quit consuming porn and get one’s life back on track without porn and sex addiction treatment.
Video Game Addiction
Video game addiction is a growing problem in Canada. A study of 1,238 Canadian adults found a 3.2% prevalence of internet gaming disorder (IGD), a related condition. Early age of onset of video gaming is a risk factor for IGD, making it crucial to address this issue early.
There are no current statistics on the prevalence of youth video game addiction in Canada. The American Medical Association has reported that at least 15% of youth gamers meet the criteria for addiction.
Treatment can help adults and children with problematic video or internet gaming behaviours. People should consider video game addiction treatment if this behaviour has started to negatively impact their lives.
64.5% of Canadians over 15 gamble at least once per year. Of these people, experts estimate around 1.6% meet the criteria for a gambling addiction. Being male, white, and from a lower-income household are significant risk factors.
Some people show apparent signs of a gambling addiction, which include financial issues, trouble at work or school, and other negative life consequences. Others may experience preoccupation with gambling and feel irritable when unable to gamble.
Problematic gambling is linked to anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Getting help for gambling addiction is crucial for preventing these complications and other negative consequences that can ruin lives.
Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is defined as problematic internet use outside of work. It may or may not include internet and video gaming disorders, porn addiction, and social media addiction, which we will discuss next.
Experts estimate that IAD has a prevalence of 1.5% to 8.2%. People with this condition experience mood swings, an inability to control internet use, and adverse work, school, or social life consequences.
Excessive internet use is becoming commonplace in modern culture, but that does not mean it is safe. People who feel unable to reduce their internet use should consider internet addiction treatment to get their lives back on track.
Social Media Addiction
In 2021, a Statistics Canada report found that one in five Canadians lose sleep, fail to exercise, or have trouble concentrating due to social media use. A smaller number of Canadians – 12% to 14%- experience negative emotions or mental health symptoms over their social media use.
People who feel distressed about their social media use should seek treatment. At Simcoe Addiction and Mental Health, we treat social media addiction as a type of internet addiction. Behavioural addiction counselling can help people overcome problematic internet use and remain abstinent for life.
The Most Common Addictions
In Canada, youths aged 15 to 24 have the highest prevalence of substance use disorders. In Ontario, the most commonly used substances among this age group include:
Early substance use is a significant risk factor for developing addiction in adulthood. Early use of alcohol or opioids is particularly concerning. Alcohol and opioids are the top two most harmful and addictive substances in the world.
Signs of Addiction
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the 11 criteria for substance use disorder include:
- Using a substance for longer than or in larger amounts than intended
- Wanting but being unable to cut down on substance use
- Spending significant time acquiring, using, or overcoming the effects of the substance
- Not being able to fulfil work, school, or home-life obligations
- Continuing to use substances despite negative life consequences
- No longer participating in previously enjoyed activities
- Using substances in unsafe environments
- Continuing to use substances despite physical or psychological health issues
Loved ones may not always see these signs. In that case, look out for signs of addiction like sudden mood swings, changes in physical appearance, isolation and withdrawal, and changes in sleep habits.
Counselling is the gold standard in addiction treatment, whether chemical or behavioural. Research-backed treatment modalities for addiction offered at Simcoe Addiction and Mental Health include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
- Trauma Resiliency Model
- Motivational Interviewing
- Cognitive Processing Therapy
- Rational-Emotive Behavioural Therapy
With the help of these treatments, people suffering from chemical or behavioural addictions can start their journey to recovery.
Get Help for the Different Types of Addictions
Drug, alcohol, and behavioural addictions are unfortunately common in Canada, affecting millions of adults, youths, and children. People presenting signs of addiction can find relief at a treatment centre in Ontario.
Do you or a loved one need help with the different types of addictions in this guide? Simcoe Addiction and Mental Health is a full-service rehab offering chemical and behavioural addiction treatment to the greater Toronto area.
Contact us to speak to an addiction expert and make the first step to recovery.