Government of Canada supports first national guideline on high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder

News release

Health care providers will have information and resources needed to help patients

January 29, 2021 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada

High-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder (AUD) can have significant health, social and economic consequences for individuals and communities. However, a lack of research, limited access to substance use specialists, and insufficient training resources mean that AUD can frequently go unrecognized or untreated in Canada.

To providing care to those struggling with this medical condition, today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced federal funding of more than $1.5 million over three years to the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) to develop the first National Guideline for the Clinical Management of High-Risk Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The guideline will help Canadian health care providers quickly identify and address harmful drinking, and treat and support patients throughout their lifetime.

The guideline will contain evidence-based information and resources to help health care providers diagnose and treat AUD, including resources tailored to specific populations, such as pregnant women and Indigenous Peoples.

As part of the project, the BCCSU will also develop guidance for Canadian Managed Alcohol Programs (MAP), a treatment option for people with severe AUD. MAP can stabilize and prevent health and social harms by providing controlled amounts of alcohol at specific times to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, MAP can help reduce further harms, including drinking alone, consuming harmful levels of alcohol, or consuming unsafe sources, such as non-beverage alcohol products (e.g., hand sanitizer and mouth wash).

The guideline and associated guidance documents are expected to be available to health care providers in 2022-23.

High-risk drinking and AUD is a health condition. It can be managed and treated if people are provided with services and supports that best meet their needs. The Government of Canada continues to work closely with public health, provinces and territories and other key stakeholders to minimize the harms associated with problematic alcohol use.

Quotes

“We know that high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder can have significant impacts on Canadians’ health, but a lack of understanding and resources means that those with AUD can struggle to get the support they need. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increasingly high level of alcohol use in Canada, with Canadians becoming more aware of the negative impacts of alcohol. This national guideline – the first of its kind – will give our health care providers the tools and resources needed to effectively help those who struggle with problematic alcohol use.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

“Consuming substances like alcohol may be a way for some to manage or control stress, as well as symptoms of depression or anxiety. An increase in alcohol consumption during stressful periods, which we’ve seen in particular during the pandemic, may lead to harms down the road. This new guideline will better equip health care providers to screen, assess, treat, and offer appropriate supports and connection to recovery services to individuals who engage in high-risk drinking and those with alcohol use disorder, and ideally, help mitigate short and longer term alcohol-related harms.”

Samantha Robinson
Interim Clinical Director, BC Centre on Substance Use

Quick facts

  • According to Statistics Canada, nearly 6 million Canadians age 12 and over report heavy drinking at least once a month. One in 5 Canadians aged 15+ met the criteria for “alcohol abuse or dependence” over their lifetime.

  • In 2017, over 105,000 hospitalizations and over 700,000 emergency department visits in Canada were due to conditions caused by alcohol.

  • COVID-19 has created an environment which may have long-term negative effects on Canadians’ level and patterns of drinking. According to a survey from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions (CCSA), one in five (20.5%) who drink alcohol and are staying at home more report drinking alcohol more often than before the onset of the pandemic. The study also found that more than 1 in 10 report binge drinking when they do consume alcohol.

  • Alcohol use is associated with over 200 diseases and conditions (e.g., alcoholic liver cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder [FASD], cardiovascular disease and cancer) and alcohol harms cost Canadian society $16.6 billion in 2017, a higher cost than tobacco, cannabis, opioids or any other substance.

  • Funding for this project is provided through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). SUAP provides financial support to provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders for programs and initiatives that aim to prevent, treat, and reduce harm of substance use issues.

Associated links

Contacts

Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Health Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

Public Inquiries:
613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709

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