Definitions and terminology for substance abuse

Understand the definitions and terminology used for learning about substance abuse and treatment.

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National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program

The majority of First Nations and Inuit communities have access to a range of community-based addiction prevention and intervention services and supports. This is made possible through the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP).

The NNADAP community-based programming includes:

  • prevention
  • health promotion
  • early identification and intervention
  • referral
  • aftercare
  • follow-up services

These services are integrated with a national network of addiction treatment centres which provide culturally-relevant in-patient and outpatient programming.


Prevention techniques aim to:

  • prevent substance use and abuse
  • delay age of first substance use
  • avoid high-risk substance use

These techniques help to reduce risk factors for substance abuse and addiction, while helping to create supportive factors for:

  • individuals
  • families
  • communities

Prevention improves overall health because it helps to change the social, cultural and environmental factors that affect health.

Early identification and intervention

Early identification involves identifying and screening people at risk for developing, or who have, a substance use or mental health issue. If at-risk people are identified, service providers may be able to intervene before:

  • an addiction or mental health issue forms
  • the addiction or mental health issue gets worse

Help is given in a way that is brief, specific and focused for the particular patient. Mental health and addiction related resources and supports can be given as needed.

Screening, assessment and referral

Screening, assessment and referral services are provided to:

  • identify individuals with a high risk for substance abuse
  • collect information needed to help the client find the right course of treatment, such as:
    • outpatient
    • day or evening treatment
    • residential treatment centre
  • find any additional services that may be needed, such as:
    • detoxification
    • job support services
    • mental health treatment


Services and supports are provided for people with moderate substance use problems. These can be community-based, outpatient extensions of residential programs or residential treatment programs. Programming is personalized to individual needs and may include the use of:

  • medications
  • behavioural therapy, which can include:
    • individual counselling
    • group counselling
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • culturally-based activities

Discharge planning and aftercare

Discharge planning and aftercare services build on the treatment process. These services provide active support and structure within communities. This helps individuals and families:

  • with healing in the long term
  • rejoin the community
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