The Family Intervention: Getting Help For a Loved One Who Won’t Stop Using Drugs of Alcohol

The Myth of Hitting Bottom

Don’t be fooled by the advice of allowing a loved one to “hit bottom.” “Hitting bottom” proponents reason that one day, when it gets bad enough or when they are ready, people with addictions will finally admit defeat and reach out for help. But what is “hitting bottom” for your loved one? Sometimes it means death. Obviously, that’s an outcome you will do everything in your power to avoid.

Strength in Numbers: The Family Intervention

If you find that confronting your loved one is too much to pull off by yourself, consider a family intervention. There is strength in numbers, and committed individuals who share your concern for a loved one can join with you in providing a united front. In fact, a united front is critical not only for creating confidence in the group but also for conveying the gravity of the situation to a loved one (“boy, this must be bad if all of these people are here”) and the hopelessness of resisting this act of compassion (“gee, even Granny is here and she usually bails me out when I get in trouble”). While having all of the family there together is a good idea, coordinating a group of people, especially family members, is not always easy.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is going to lead the group?
  • Does everyone know what they are going to say?
  • Is everyone going to be at the right place and on time?
  • How do we deal with the excuses if he refuses help?
  • What do we do if she agrees to get help?

If you conclude that you may not be able to pull this off, consider hiring a family interventionist. Interventionists are trained for these situations and have the emotional detachment that you or others in your group may lack.

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10 Steps for Employers to a Drug Free Workplace


This guide is for you, the employer. It will help you develop, implement and maintain a drug-free workplace (DFW) program. The purpose of a DFW program is to enable your company to effectively deal with drug and alcohol (collectively referred to as “substances”) misuse as a matter of safety, health and performance.

As a treatment center for addiction, we find that many of our clients have lost promising or long-term careers due to problems with drugs or alcohol. It is a sad reality that, despite increasingly negative consequences, an individual with a substance problem often fails to seek help. Far too often, criminal charges, divorce or job loss has to occur before the substance misuser agrees to go to treatment. However, after countless conversations with clients and their families, we at Sunshine Coast Health Center assert that marriages and careers can be saved with early effective intervention.

A DFW program will provide a direct benefit to your company by reducing:

  • Exposure to corporate liability for workplace accidents caused by employees who are under the influence
  • Exposure to liability under human rights and privacy legislation
  • Absenteeism and overtime to cover absenteeism
  • Damage to equipment and company vehicles
  • Disability and insurance claim costs
  • Theft from employees requiring funds to support their habit
  • Replacement and training costs due to turnover

A DFW program will also demonstrate to provincial and federal regulatory authorities your commitment to the health and safety of workers and the public. While creating a drug-free workplace is not easy, the ten steps presented will help you achieve your goal of protecting your workplace while avoiding potential pitfalls. You will also learn about a variety of affordable community and online resources that can assist in the design and implementation of your DFW program.

We trust your employees and their families will respond positively to your efforts to create a better workplace free from the effects of drugs and alcohol. Just remember that while a healthy and safe community is everyone’s responsibility … YOU are the key to a drug free workplace!

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Drugs of Abuse: An Identification Guide

Why This Guide?

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”- Benjamin Franklin

The key to effective prevention is knowledge. This guide is designed to inform families, employers, and educators not familiar with the vast array of abused drugs now commonplace in our communities. Some of these drugs, such as inhalants, can be found in any supermarket or hardware store. Prescription drugs have legitimate medical applications but are being increasingly diverted for illicit purposes. Other “hardcore” drugs, such as crack cocaine, are now commonplace in many schools, work sites, and homes across North America.

When Drug Use Becomes Drug Dependence

When drugs are used solely to create intensely pleasurable feelings, it is called drug abuse. Tolerance to the drugs’ effects occurs with long-term use, so users must  take higher doses to achieve the same or similar effects as experienced initially. Prolonged drug abuse can also lead to physical dependence, psychological dependence, or both. Physical dependence means that the absence of the drug creates discomfort (withdrawal) until more of the drug is administered. Psychological dependence refers to a perceived “need” or “craving” for a drug. While physical dependence is typically treated in a few days, treatment for psychological dependence requires a much longer time frame.

Drug Categories Explained

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in Canada regulates four classes of drugs: hallucinogens, depressants, stimulants, and anabolic steroids. All controlled substances have the potential to be abused. With the exception of anabolic steroids, controlled substances are abused to alter mood, thought, and feeling through their effect on the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

Drugs are distinguished by their effect on the central nervous system (depressants or stimulants), by their primary ingredient (the poppy plant for opioids, testosterone for steroids), or how they are used (inhalants). Individual drugs within a class can have differing medical uses, effect duration, or methods of ingestion (oral, injected, smoked, or snorted). However, drugs within a particular class typically share similar effects, overdose risk, and withdrawal symptoms.

Although considered a hallucinogen, the prevalence and unique features of cannabis warrant a separate section. Inhalants are abused drugs but, due to their widespread use for a number of legitimate purposes, are not controlled substances. Due to their abuse potential, however, a section is dedicated to inhalants. Families and educators may want to pay particular attention to inhalants since most inhalant abusers are youth.

Prevalence of Drug Abuse in Canada

A final note on the prevalence of the drugs profiled in this guide is necessary. Of Canadians 15 years or older, a survey conducted in 2004 revealed that alcohol is, by far, the drug of choice with 79.3 percent report consuming alcohol in the past year. Of past-year drinkers, 17 percent are considered high-risk drinkers. According to the same survey, “cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug followed in order by LSD or hallucinogens, cocaine and crack, speed, and heroin.” Rates of past-year use of cannabis increased signifi cantly from 7.4 percent in 1994 to 14.1 percent in 2004, while cocaine and crack use more than doubled from 0.7 percent to 1.9 percent during the same period. Rates of past-year use for all other substances (including steroids and inhalants) remained below 1 percent. (source: Canadian Addiction Survey, 2004).

In Canada, tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death. Exclusion from this guide is not intended to minimize its impact on the well-being of Canadians.

Changes in this Edition

In this 2010/11 edition of this guide, changes have been made to the marijuana section. Furthermore, information on barbiturates has been replaced with additional photographs of more commonly prescribed drugs.

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