New resource to help people with severe alcohol addiction

published on July 18, 2023

New national guidance to help people with severe alcohol addiction has been published by the BC Centre on Substance Use in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.

The first-ever Canadian guidance for Managed Alcohol Programs (MAPs) has been developed to support scaling up of these evidence-based programs for treating severe alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Untreated AUD is a leading contributor in Canada to hospitalizations, health costs, and lost productivity. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports that there are 263 hospitalizations each day entirely caused by alcohol.

While there are several evidence-based treatments to address high risk drinking and alcohol use disorder, harm reduction interventions may be needed to support those with severe AUD when those treatments are not appropriate or have not been effective, particularly for those who may be experiencing homelessness and poverty. To bridge the gaps experienced by this population, a growing number of MAPs have been established in many communities across Canada.

The programs involve the managed provision of alcohol as a key component of an integrated service, which includes a range of vital healthcare and psychosocial services—such as housing, nutritional and financial support, access to medical care, and counselling. By supplying a measured amount of alcohol at regular intervals, MAPs have proven to be effective in reducing alcohol consumption, preventing deadly symptoms of withdrawal, and providing an alternative to drinking non-beverage alcohol such as mouthwash or rubbing alcohol, which can be extremely harmful.

The new guidance, developed with funding from Health Canada, provides operational information with the aim to ultimately scale up the availability of these programs nationally.

The new guidance can be found here:


“Because I wake up in the morning dry gagging, every morning, because I have no alcohol and I don’t know what to do. I have no money, what am I going to do? Well, what’s in the medicine cabinet… there’s some Scope (mouthwash). So, thank God there’s the PHS Drinkers Lounge Community Managed Alcohol Program, and I can go get some wine for a reasonable amount of money, because I don’t have any money, and that’s why we need it. People are dying because they’re drinking anything they can get their hands on so they don’t have anxiety, panic disorders, that continue during the whole day. They need alcohol to stop that from continuing, no matter what the cost. Even if it’s their life.”

John Onland; Steering Committee Member, Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education (EIDGE)


“The positive experience I’ve had on this alcohol management system is that I don’t have to rely on illicit alcohol like mouthwash, gas line antifreeze, whatever. I’ve also noticed that it (the program) is really good for the community. It’s a great place for me to go, have a few drinks and socialize with the others, because when I came to Vancouver, I found it very difficult to find friends, so I found myself just drinking in my room and getting drunk. But now I can go out, and I don’t get drunk that much. It’s great to find a place that is an alcohol management center. It’s been very positive on my personality, how I feel every day, I don’t have much anxiety, and I know I have a place to go where I can chill out.”

George Sedore; Steering Committee Member, Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education (EIDGE)


“Managed alcohol programs fill a gap in treatment, harm reduction and housing systems of care. Evidence-based national guidelines are an important step to enhancing these systems and meeting people where they are at.”

Bernie Pauly, RN, PhD; Co-Chair, MAPS Committee; Professor, School of Nursing; Scientist, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), University of Victoria


“The initiation of Managed Alcohol Programs (MAPs) in a variety of settings during COVID 19 demonstrated the significant impact the harm reduction philosophy for alcohol use disorder has on saving lives and the benefit a guidance document would have for clinicians providing services.”

Cindy Rose, MA, RSSW; Co-Chair, MAPS Committee; Manager, Harm Reduction and Shelter Services, Canadian Mental Health Association, Sudbury/Manitoulin