Reports are that First Nation drug abuse, by Inuit and Metis, has over the past decade increased, and is continuing to rise. Predictably, there follows a list of all the intended plans that interested groups propose to put into place to help the drug addicted First Nation people.
Typical drugs that are used are cocaine, cannabis and solvents, with cannabis being the most widely used drug in Nunavik. Drug use among Inuit people is said to be around 60% of the population, about 4 times as high as drug use observed for the general Canadian population.
Cannabis is smoked by nearly 9 out of 10 young males in Nunavik – the good news is that there is a lot of information and help around for First Nation people with a drug problem.
The sad news is that despite these well intentioned interventions, drug use is increasing.
With the community intending to use Canada’s National Anti-Drug Strategy as a model, it might be thought absurd – Canada’s drug problem today, under the National Anti-Drug Strategy is increasing and out of control. Since 2007 when the National Strategy was implemented, the strategy has failed to achieve by any measure of success a reduction of drug use by the Canadian public.
Auditing of the programs under the National Strategy appears to be more attuned to their use and allocation of funding, than any requirement to demonstrate success in winning the war on drugs. The focus was clearly upon law enforcement as a deterrent to drug use with 70% of funding directed to that purpose – leaving people in the harm reduction and drug use prevention field to lament their lack of funding. see article
However, increased funding to traditional evidence-based drug treatments would appear not to be the answer to increasing Canadian drug use. Evidence based programs in Canada for drug addiction recovery fail to substantiate successful outcomes for drug addiction recovery and rehabilitation.
Expressions of continued determination to eradicate drug use as a community problem need to look at alternatives to an anti-drug strategy that has singularly failed.
A 2010 initiative, by the University of Saskatchewan, intended to address First Nation issues of drug use, and in particular the women of First Nation communities, has resulted in a song being published, entitled From Stilettos to Moccasins. It is about the role of stigma, and its destructive impact on the self esteem and identity of the First Nation people. The song brings to the forefront the silenced voices of the First Nation women. By way of hope, the song focuses on the benefits of strengthening cultural identity in order to bring healing.
In truth there are similarities of experience as between any Canadian drug user, and the First Nation people. Drug use at a personal level, and in the community is a means of asserting and finding identity, an attempt to create feelings of mastery and power that are otherwise denied.
The alternative to drug use, for many addicted users, is the experience of deep depression, an existential death. Common to all drug users is that they have a complaint about conditions in their life that they have been denied the right to express, denied the power to effectively change. Drug use is a cry for help, and a solution to a problem that is not being acknowledged by those seen as being in a position of power and control over the addicted user.
Everyone in Canadian society today, not only First Nation people needs to question the level and importance that drug use has in our lives, whether it be prescription drugs, alcohol or meth, cocaine or cannabis. What is the function and purpose of drug use – what needs does it address. These questions are never made the subject of serious funding for fear of the consequences.
Statistics could easily be obtained to show what causes drug use - that would soon put an end to the myth that addiction is a disease. Increasing drug use is an affliction, brought on by chronic stress. Stress occurs to people when they are faced with conflicting issues, and denied the power to resolve them. The causes of drug use, as a defense to feelings of futility, hopelessness and depression, will continue while people remain disempowered to speak out and be heard about their many complaints.
Until those in Canadian society, with access to power and wealth sit down at the table and listen to those oppressed by their forcing ways, communities will have to live with drug use by those who can find no other solution to the pain of their existence.
Point the finger at any drug user and of necessity and appropriately – three fingers point back at you. Extending the hand in a spirit of genuine co-operation and peace is a move in the right direction, one that drug strategies need to take if they want to resolve the problem of drug use in the community.