National Addictions Awareness Week 2023: Inspiration, Innovation and Inclusion

November 16, 2023 - Defence Stories

Substance use is a complex and widespread issue. Alcohol and tobacco alone account for the highest health costs and harms in Canada. Alcohol and tobacco use also intersect with the CAF culture. Alcohol and tobacco use in the CAF is higher than in the general Canadian population. This suggests the CAF also experiences high health costs and harms from substance use.


Corporal Pete Xing from 15th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, pulls a ‘rescued’ person up the side of a building in a simulated Light Urban Search and Rescue drill during Exercise ARCTIC EAGLE-PATRIOT 22 in Anchorage, Alaska, USA on February 26, 2022.

Credit: Cpl Rachael Allen, Canadian Forces Combat Camera, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

Inspiration, Innovation and Inclusion is the theme for the National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) taking place November 19-25, 2023. It is organized by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). During this week, CCSA highlights ways to address substance use harms. It is an opportunity to learn about causes, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Inspiration, Innovation and Inclusion are key ingredients for a healthier Canadian society. Evidence shows that these can transform approaches to substance use. These key ingredients align with the Total Health and Wellness Strategy, empowering all levels of the CAF to improve their health and well-being.

Leaders of all ranks and CAF members: Remember, understanding substance use and related impacts is essential to minimizing risks and maintaining deployability. You are an essential support person and role model for others in your unit. Here are six tips to help get you started:

  1. Learn how to reduce the risks of substance use by connecting with your local Health Promotion Office. Also encourage those around you to do the same.
  2. Share knowledge. Reach out to your local Health Promotion Office to arrange briefings, workshops and other educational opportunities, and for support on policy.
  3. Promote substance-free activities. Participate in and encourage others to partake in substance free activities.
  4. Change the culture at your level and encourage higher levels to change too, by sharing your successes in implementing a more inclusive culture for moderate or substance-free alternatives.
  5. Encourage help-seeking. Studies show that CAF members may not seek help due to stigma, concern over career, or misinformation. Take action by encouraging help-seeking and outlining available supports:
  6. Model lower-risk use. The actions of leaders of all ranks influence others. If you use substances, or gamble or game yourself, assess your risk, make a change if needed with others in your unit, and set the example by following:

For this year’s NAAW, we challenge everyone to check out the information and events at your Health Promotion Office (in person or online). You can learn about the CAF’s many resources. You can improve health and wellness for yourself, your family, your unit and the CAF. By working together, we can reach our individual and collective goals of health and wellness.

Véronic Clair, MD MSc PhD CCFP FRCP(c)

Véronic Clair is Strengthening the Forces’ Section Head and provides leadership and technical expertise across all portfolios.

Laura O'Dell, MSc.

Laura O’Dell is part of the Strengthening the Forces team and works on increasing awareness and prevention of harms related to substance use, gambling and gaming in the Addictions Awareness and Prevention program.

Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.

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