Addictions and Healing in Aboriginal Communities in Canada


Addictionsand Healing in Aboriginal Communities in Canada

Addictivebehaviors have been indicated as one of the major problems thataffect the Aboriginal communities. For instance, aboriginalcommunities have indicated alcohol as well as substance abuse to beserious issues. According to a First Nations survey conducted in 2003involving 1606 individuals, 74% of participants indicated that theythought that illegal drugs and alcohol were harmful to health andrated them as their vast health concerns (Jiwa &amp Kelly, 2008).Substance abuse and other related behaviors need interventions, whichcan help in healing the Aboriginal communities from addiction as wellas preventing the Aboriginal from becoming addicted. The contributingfactors to substance abuse and other associated problems areeconomical, cultural, and social factors. This paper will discuss thevarious methods that can be used in addressing the addiction problemseffectively. In this respect, the paper will discuss and demonstrateexamples of where some of the approaches are making positive changes.Besides, a case will be made for the special needs of the Aboriginalcommunities as well an exploration of where pathways to healing maybe found.

TheAboriginals are usually affected by different problems, which mayrange from substance abuse, unwanted pregnancies, to poor adjustmentto peer group. Issues to do with substance abuse are not isolated tothemselves since abuse to children and violence are usuallyassociated with substance abuse. Because of the effects of substanceabuse among the Aboriginal communities, there is need of preventing,treating as well as finding healing measures that can be used inhealing the Aboriginal communities from substance use and relatedproblems. Therefore, different approaches can be used in addressingthese problems effectively. The paragraphs that follow provide theapproaches that can be used to save the Aboriginal communities fromthe problems.

Alcoholand Substance Abuse

Thereare a disproportionate percentage of Aboriginal people in theCanadian penitentiary system a vast population of the Aboriginalpeople in prisons is due to alcohol. In most cases, the commencementof substance abuse is during the early teenage years (Tait, 2003).According to the Ministry of Health of British Columbia (2003),hazardous tobacco and alcohol use causes 90% of all deaths,disabilities, and illnesses associated with substance use in BritishColumbia. Drinking a lot of alcohol and excessive use of tobaccoduring the years of teenage can lead to health and social problemslater in the year therefore, the need for preventive or treatmentapproaches that can effectively curb the addiction. The followingapproaches can help in addressing the issue of alcohol and substanceuse among the Aboriginal communities

  1. Including Curriculum and Programs that are Culturally Relevant in Schools

Includingcurriculum and programs, which are culturally relevant can help inbenefiting the Aboriginal adolescents (Kelly, 2007). Since schoolsplay a vital role in developing self-identity, the curriculums andprograms can aid in positively influencing self-esteem and well-beingof adolescents. Understanding of race relations and ethnic diversitycan aid in eliminating racism amid the adolescents. In addition,through the cultural programs, the adolescents can learn how to spendtheir leisure in engaging in relevant cultural practices. This woulderadicate the potential of adolescents engaging in alcohol andsubstance abuse.

  1. Involving Youths in Sports and other Recreational Programs

Youthsmay engage in alcohol and substance abuse because of boredom orfeeling that there is nothing that they can do. However, keeping theyouths engaged in sporting activities and recreational programs canhelp the youth feel engaged a move that would avoid theirinvolvement in risky behaviors such as taking drugs.

  1. Implementing Policies and Services that Enhance Access to Psychological Support

Socialskills, coping with stress skills, and leadership can be enhancedthrough individual or group counseling (Stockwell et al, 2005).Counseling can help youths in gaining strategies that can help themin coping with stress, which can eradicate the opportunity of seekingdrugs in order to deal with their problems.

  1. Using Peer-led Education

Sharingand cooperation settings among the Aboriginal youths can be used inmaking peer-led education a strong tool of eliminating alcohol andsubstance abuse. Since most youths prefer receiving informationconcerning the use of substances from their peers or people that havestruggled with the problem rather than their parents, educationthrough peers can aid in preventing youths from engaging in alcoholand substance use.

  1. The Use of Role Models and Free Information

Rolemodels can be used in providing guidance and counseling to youths inorder to prevent them from engaging in the use of alcohol and otherdrugs (Kelly, 2007). It is also important to ensure that informationis provided freely to the Aboriginal communities since some of themmay engage in substance use because of lack of information on theireffects.

  1. Restricting Access to Drugs through Community Mobilization

TheAboriginal communities can be mobilized by different leaders andprograms organized that can help in eliminating the access of drugsto all ages. Communities may be organized in such a way that theyprioritize their own developments. This would make communitiesaddress the use of drugs, thus eliminating their use.

  1. Developing of Treatment Centers

Treatmentcenters are critical in eradicating addiction to alcohol and otherdrugs. These treatment centers offer the much required counseling inthe healing process (Jiwa &amp Kelly, 2008). Therefore, treatmentprograms can be initiated in eliminating addiction problem.


Aboriginalcommunities may have learning problems because of the use of drugs,language and cultural barriers. The use of drugs may make theaboriginal communities fail to proceed with education due early dropouts from schools. Besides, discrimination from teachers may lead tolow self-esteem and poor social skills, which may be a likely causeof their learning problems. The following approaches can be used ineffectively addressing the problem

  1. Eliminating Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Becauseaddiction of drugs may contribute to their learning problems, it iscritical for schools to integrate programs and curriculums thateducate on the effects of drug use. Such programs would providelearners from the Aboriginal communities with relevant information ondrugs that they may not learn from institutions such as families.Schools may also integrate counseling sessions that may help inproviding learners with information concerning how they can deal withproblems that may lead them to using drugs.

  1. Teaching Culturally Relevant Materials in Schools

SinceAboriginal communities may feel that they are being discriminated bynot teaching under the guidance of their culture, language andheritage, there should be a curriculum that incorporates theirculture, language and heritage (Deborah, 2007). This may beintegrated in school curriculum, where Aboriginal leaders and eldersmay become involved in school lessons.

RiskySex Behavior

Unwantedpregnancies may result from cases such as rape and unprotected sexbecause of drug use. This implies that eradicating the use of drugsis a critical step in eradicating some unwanted pregnancies amid theAboriginal communities since it may help in mitigating the issues ofrape. Limited economical and emotional factors may also result to theproblem of unwanted and `unplanned pregnancies among the Aboriginalcommunities, but most unwanted pregnancies emanate from engaging inrisky sex behavior due to drugs. The following methods can be used ineliminating the problem

  1. Providing Counseling

Counselingshould be provided early enough to the Aboriginal communities on thedifferent ways that unwanted and unplanned pregnancies can be caused.Such counseling would help in equipping the Aboriginal communitieswith the relevant information on how to avoid these pregnancies. Forexample, since the use of drugs may lead to rapes and unprotectedsex, the Aboriginal communities would be equipped with ways ofavoiding drugs use.

  1. Providing Confidential Information to High-risk Youths

Informationconcerning the use of affordable contraceptives needs to be providedto the vulnerable youths since economic factors may lead to havingunprotected sex. Besides, information on how to prevent unwantedpregnancies should be provided.

WhereSome Approaches have Delivered Positive Changes

Thereare different cases, where some of these approaches have deliveredpositive changes. One of such cases entails the case of EskasoniCommunity Healing. The community had a complicated web of problemsthat it was struggling with such as alcohol and drugs, sexual abuse,gambling, and family violence among other issues. In order to preventthe community from drug addiction, different strategies becameestablished. One of the strategies involved Moose Camp program. Thisprogram bridged elders and youths together in deliveringpositively-focused activities. Another strategy involved EmpathyProgram, which targeted school children that were aged 5 to 11 yearsthat engage in anti-social behavior (Deborah, 2007). Culturalteachings helped in improving communication skills that fit theAboriginal learning styles. These strategies were helpful inpreventing alcohol and drug addiction in the community. Besides,another case where some of the approaches have delivered positivechanges is the case of treatment program for Inuit. In this case, thetreatment program became initiated in order to offer community-basedcounseling. This treatment program targeted the addicted individualsin the community (Deborah, 2007). Since these approaches have beensuccessful in the provided cases, they have the possibility ofachieving positive changes in the aboriginal communities.

SpecialNeeds of Aboriginal Communities and pathways to Healing

Aboriginalcommunities have special needs that may include language barrier andlack of information (Marsh, 2010). As such, in order to prevent ortreat addiction, it is critical to ensure providing information tothem that is rich in their language. This would enhanceunderstandability of information provided and encourage them due tothe use of their culture (language). The Pathway to healing needs tocomprise of three key components that include individualpre-treatment, intensive treatment that involve individuals andgroups, and provision of aftercare to individuals (Christine,2009).


Mostof the problems that affect the Aboriginal communities emanate fromsocial, economic, and cultural factors. The use of alcohol and othersubstances has also led to other related problems such as droppingout of schools, violence, and risky sex behavior among others. Thisimplies that, in eradicating drug-related problems amid theAboriginal communities, it is vital to eradicate the use of alcoholand other drugs. In eradicating the problems facing the aboriginalcommunities, it is critical to consider different approaches thatwould consider dealing effectively with the problems.


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Deborah,C. (2007). Addictive Behaviors Among Aboriginal People in Canada.AboriginalHealing Foundation Research Series,pp 1-125.

Jiwa,A. &amp Kelly, L. (2008). Healingthe community to heal the individual: Literature review of aboriginalcommunity-based alcohol and substance abuse programs. CanadianFamily Physician,Vol. 54 (7).

Kelly,M. (2007). Effects of Substance Use Among Aboriginal Peoples: AnInitial Review of Research Literature, University of Victoria. Centrefor Addictions Research of BC,pages 1-24.

Marsh,T. N. (2010). Enlightenmentis letting go!: Healing from trauma, addiction, and multiple loss.New York: Authorhouse.

Stockwell,T., Gruenewald, P., &amp Toumbourou, J. (2005). PreventingHarmful Substance Use: The evidence base for policy and practice.Chichester: John Wiley &amp Sons.

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