NWT Addictions Awareness Week

November 22 to 28, 2020 is NWT Addictions Awareness Week!

This year, we are following the theme of the National Addictions Awareness Week which is Change Begins with Me. Each of us has a role to play in helping to reduce the stigma around addictions. 

An addiction is a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). Stigma is the negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that make people feel judged and ashamed including the stigma that unfortunately exists around mental illness and addictions.

Today, one out of ten Canadians experience substance use problems. In 2018, 74% of NWT residents aged 15 years and older who were surveyed reported that they currently drink alcohol and 39.3% of these reported drinking 5 or more drinks on one occasion.

Addictions impact all of us whether personally or through family and friends.  Yet eight out of ten Canadians with a substance use disorder say that they have experienced barriers to recovery including stigma (CCSA, 2019). For example, stigma may result in discrimination which prevents people from accessing safe housing, employment or services like health care or help for their addictions. 

This year, declare: "Change begins with me!"

What can I do to help reduce stigma?

You can make a choice to play a part in reducing the stigma surrounding addictions and the individuals who have lived or living experience with addictions by:

  • learning about addictions. Substance use disorders are real medical conditions just like other health problems such as diabetes and arthritis. Addictions are not a choice or a failure.  Often, people need help to recover. Addictions are common and affect people from all walks of life. 
  • learning about the stigma around addictions. Many people experiencing mental health and/or addictions issues say that the stigma can be worse than the illness itself. Self-stigma is when a person begins to believe the negative things that others and the media are saying about them which results in the prejudice being internalized. For example, people may experience low self-esteem and feelings of guilt and shame around having an addiction. Here are a couple of online resources on the stigma around addictions:
  • choosing to use language that reduces stigma around addictions. Commonly used words like ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic’ label a person and can keep stigma alive. Choosing ‘person-first language’ helps to reduce stigma. ‘Person-first language’ acknowledges someone as being a person before describing their health condition. For example, saying:  ‘a person living with a substance use disorder’ or ‘an individual with lived or living experience with addiction’. For more information on language and stigma, view our document: 
  • supporting individuals with lived or living experience with addiction. If you have a loved one who is experiencing addictions, support their choices and encourage them as they take steps towards getting well. Mental wellness and addictions recovery look different for every individual. Respect individual’s choices when it comes to using or not using substances. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. For more ideas, view:

What activities are happening in my community?

What help is available for addictions in the NWT?   

There is a range of supports available including formal programs and services such as counselling, facility based addictions treatment, on the land healing, and peer- or community-based options such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Please click here for information on the help available.

Addictions recovery is the process through which a person is able to live a satisfying, hopeful, and meaningful life (as defined by the individual), even when there are ongoing limitations caused by mental health and/or addictions issues. Addictions recovery is also a deeply personal process that is unique to the individual. What works for one person, might not work for another. Click here to see the Addictions Recovery infographic that shows the variety of formal and informal supports that an individual might use at different points along their healing journey.

Some NWT communities have peer support or self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and most groups provide online or phone meeting options. Please see the list below for examples of peer support/self-help groups in Canada for individuals with lived or living experience with addictions:

Watch our NWT Addictions Awareness Week playlist:


For information on National Addictions Awareness Week, please click here.