Message from the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health – National Addictions Awareness Week


November 20, 2023 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada

This week is National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW), a time for Canadians to learn more about addiction and how we can support people looking for help with substance use.

We also remember those who have lost their lives to an overdose, and their loved ones. It is a reminder that every person who overdoses is somebody who has a family, and people that care about them. We must take action alongside all levels of government, direct care providers, first responders, families and those with lived and living experience to protect Canadians who use drugs.

No one chooses to develop an addiction. It is a medical condition that affects the brain, and like any medical condition, it is treatable, it is deserving of care and it should be discussed with compassion.

This year’s NAAW theme is ‘Inspiration, Innovation and Inclusion.’ For our government, this means continuing to support new ideas around prevention and substance use services and supports like harm reduction, treatment and recovery. It also means continuing to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use disorder, and ensuring that the voices and perspectives of people with lived and living experience inform our efforts to reduce substance use-related harms.

We recently released a renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS), which outlines Canada’s approach to address the overdose crisis and other substance use-related harms. Our approach is compassionate and acknowledges that individuals may need services and supports that go beyond medical care.

It is critically important to prevent harms before they begin, and prevention starts with youth. As part of the renewed CDSS, the Public Health Agency of Canada is supporting a new Youth Substance Use Prevention Program. This community-based program is based on the Icelandic Prevention Model, which is recognized internationally for its collaborative approach to preventing substance use-related harms among youth.

If you would like to learn more about substance use in Canada, our government has launched a number of public education efforts. The Ease the Burden Campaign is aimed at men working in trades, who statistically are more impacted by substance use and addiction than any other industry. The Know More opioids public awareness initiative for youth is also continuing to help raise awareness of crucial topics, including the facts surrounding the overdose crisis, the signs of an opioid overdose, fentanyl and the role of naloxone, with in-person and virtual sessions taking place in high schools across the country.

In addition to discovering those campaigns, I encourage you to learn more about how stigma can impact people who use substances by exploring these real stories.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to addiction treatment and recovery looks different for everyone. Every person who uses substances is on their own path and has their own unique needs. We need to see them. We need to be there for them. And we need to have all a full range of services and supports available to help them towards recovery.

To anyone who might be looking for help with substance use: you are not alone. When you’re ready, there are free and confidential programs and services that can help.

The Honourable Ya'ara Saks, P.C., M.P.


Alexander Fernandes
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Ya'ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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