How Community Support Workers Can Help Contain the Opioid Crisis in Canada

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    pioid addiction is getting serious worldwide, and Canada is no exception. According to the data released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Canada is witnessing an opioid epidemic. Over 11,500 opioid-related deaths in Canada were reported between January 2016 and December 2018. It has become a major public safety and health concern since the numbers have come up.

    It doesn’t stop there. The world is fighting the menace of drug overuse. Approximately  half a million deaths are attributable to drug use worldwide (World Health Organization (WHO)), and the grave concern is that 70 percent of these deaths are opioid-related, with over 30 percent of those deaths caused by opioid overdose.

    The figures revealed by the City of Calgary provide no relief. In January this year, 158 Albertans were reported to have died from opioid poisoning, as compared to 131 deaths in the same month last year, up by 17 percent. Official statements have revealed that opioid deaths in Alberta have been on the rise ever since the pandemic hit in 2020. An average of 52 deaths were reported per month in 2019 and in 2021 the numbers soared to 134 per month. 

    First, Let’s Understand What an Opioid is

    The term "opioids" refers to compounds such as poppy seed extract, semi-synthetic substances, and synthetic substances that can interact with opioid receptors situated in the brain (WHO). Opioids usually have sedative and analgesic impacts, hence, they are used commonly for managing pain. Opioid intake can lead to a feeling of euphoria, and individuals can get addicted to them easily. Some popular opioids are morphine, heroin, fentanyl, codeine, methadone, and tramadol, among others.

    One can easily get dependent on opioids if they continue to use them for long, non-medical purposes, and without supervision. It’s important to keep a check on the opioid dose that you have been administered to take and seek measures for de-addiction if you feel you have fallen prey to it. 

    Role of Community Support Workers is Important 

    The role of community support workers becomes integral to helping out people with opioid addiction and those who succumb to overdose. While the majority of opioid overdoses don’t lead to death, they cause serious harm to a person’s health. Professional addictions and community services workers can act as contributors to helping people mitigate the risk of death and harmful effects caused by opioid addiction or overdose.   

    It requires refined skills and a calm personality to provide solace to the people who need your support to help them get off the addiction. 

    A regular Addictions and Community Service Worker Diploma program can equip you with the required skills and make you job-ready. It fosters confidence in the students who have enrolled in this program to become front-line healthcare workers and provide optimal care to individuals, families, and communities undergoing challenging circumstances. The program offers learning opportunities that let the students reach their full potential and widen their perspectives. 

    “Opioid crisis is a significant health concern at the moment. The way it is growing by the day is worrisome. Through our Addictions and Community Service Worker (ACSW) Diploma program, we teach our students how to provide optimal care to those addicted to opioids or other drugs. They use their skills to help individuals rise from the perils of addictions,” says Kathy DuGray, ACSW Instructor at ABM College. 

    Let’s learn about how, as an addictions and community services worker, you can play your part to help alleviate the pain caused by opioid addiction and drug overuse.

    How Community Support Workers Can Help Tackle Addictions 

    Addiction of any sort is difficult to forego. The road to recovery is tough for the ones dealing with the addiction, but the community support workers can facilitate the process in more ways than one. They can do so in the following four ways: 

    1. Counselling and educating individuals 
    2. Assisting in medication management
    3. Extending emotional support
    4. Evaluating results 

    Counselling and Educating Individuals  

    As a community support worker, you can empower individuals by providing valuable knowledge about drug overuse and overdose of opioids. You can share insights into how the addiction starts, what they need to do, and how they can overcome it. Spreading awareness about the whole scenario is crucial for individuals to understand how to deal with the addiction. 

    It’s more to do with step-by-step counselling and assisting the people to overcome the effects of addiction and gradually do away with it. You can also guide them to monitor the signs of addiction and be wary of the risk factors of opioid overdose for the individuals to take preventive measures when needed. 

    You can support individuals through a therapeutic intervention that facilitates healing. Make them feel heard and be their support system so that they can move toward recovery at a faster pace.

    Your responsibility will also include mapping the individual’s history on how they got started with the drug’s overdose, developing treatment plans for them in line with their needs, maintaining the treatment structure, and evaluating their progress at each step. This organized process aids in faster recovery for the individuals. 

    Assisting in Medication Management    

    Another important aspect of a community support worker’s job is to assist individuals with proper medication. You help by creating a medication plan for them, monitoring regular intake of medicines, and following up keeping their changing needs in mind. 

    You can facilitate access to prescribed medicines such as naloxone (Narcan®) and let them get used to it. Naloxone is believed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. You need to be well-trained in providing guided support to the individuals on how to consume the medicine, what can be the possible side effects (if any) of taking the medicine unsupervised, and how it can prove beneficial when taken continuously. 

    Apart from working directly with the individuals, you can collaborate with various community organizations and extend your support in medication management. 

    As an addictions and community services worker, you can help decrease the harms associated with the overdose of opioids and other drugs. 

    Extending Emotional Support 

    Lending emotional support to those in need is another way that you can contribute to individuals’ well-being. You can make a meaningful impact on other people’s lives whom you are administering your support services. 

    Going through the de-addiction process can make the individuals feel lonely and they need someone to be with them during such times. Being their listening partner and understanding their emotions can make them feel heard. They learn to cope with difficult situations with your constant guidance. 

    Community support workers display compassion toward their clients and make deliberate efforts to improve their lives. They act professionally while respecting the dignity and special care needs of the individual that they work with. They help them to be independent and regain their abilities to make decisions. 

    Evaluating Results 

    The final way to measure whether your efforts are bearing fruit is by monitoring the progress of the individual and evaluating the results on a regular basis. Maintaining a record of the routine and activities can give you a fair idea about whether the individual followed the plan or deviated. 

    Counselling individuals by following a set path can lead you to get results ultimately by keeping them motivated. Measuring results actively can help both the individual and you to make amends in the plan as and when required to see what works the best. 

    You get to learn all these skills during the course of the Addictions and Community Service Worker Diploma Program and gain relevant skills to be successful in your career. The skills include — relapse prevention, motivational interviewing, and prevention strategies — where students learn strategies to help clients prevent relapse during recovery and treatment.


    Being an addictions and community services worker can be a challenging career. If you wish to succeed in it, formal education can equip you with job-relevant skills and get you closer to your dream vocation. 

    Find out how ABM College’s Addictions and Community Service Worker Diploma Program can facilitate your search for the perfect job in the health care field. 

    Contact us now! 

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