Finding Treatment for Your Loved One
Your likely first response to your child or loved one’s substance use will be to seek out treatment options. Before doing so, it is important to understand what constitutes treatment, and which treatments are available and best-suited for which substance use disorders.
Unfortunately, the treatment system in BC has significant gaps and inconsistencies. Although considerable effort is going into improving the system, finding appropriate treatment may require persistence and advocacy to find the right program or care provider for your child or loved one.
Many parents and other loved ones have found their own voices to be a strong tool to get their child or loved one the help that they need. Be prepared to learn how the system works and to advocate for your child or loved one.
Treatment & Recovery
No matter how worried you are or how negative the consequences you’re seeing from your child or loved one’s substance use, you can’t force your loved one to change or access treatment if they aren’t ready.
Recognizing where your loved one is at and how they feel about their substance use may help you to have realistic expectations and better support them. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘stages of change’ or the transtheoretical model.
Identifying and understanding how your child or loved one feels about their substance use, whether they want to change their behaviour, and what their goals are will help you to better support them. It’s important to remember that your preferred goal may be very different from their goal. For example, you might wish that they’d using substances entirely, while they may want to reduce or control their use or to stop using one substance (for example, heroin) while continuing to use another (for example, cannabis).
- Your child or loved one may not see any problem with their substance use and has no intention to change their behaviour.
- Your child or loved one has recognized that there is a problem with their substance use but has mixed feelings about stopping or reducing their use and hasn’t decided to make any changes.
- Your child or loved one has recognized that there is a problem with their substance use, wants to change their behaviour, and is starting to make a plan to change it.
- Your child or loved one has recognized that there is a problem with their substance use and has started to make changes to their behaviour. Making these kind of changes take a lot of energy and your loved one may get frustrated if they do not see rapid changes.
- Your child or loved one has made significant changes to their behaviour and is working to maintain their behaviour, which may be reduced use or abstinence.
Overview of Treatment Options
Treatment interventions and supports for substance use disorders can be understood as existing on a continuum of care, including pharmacological (for example, opioid agonist treatment with medications such as methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone or methadone) and non-pharmacological (e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling).
Many people will benefit from accessing care at multiple points along the continuum, for example, receiving buprenorphine/
naloxone and traditional Indigenous healing practices, or inpatient residential treatment followed by outpatient treatment.
Treatment options in BC are available both privately and publicly.
- Outpatient treatment—services are accessed during the day and usually involve 1 or 2 group therapy sessions per week.
- Youth-specific treatment—may include opioid agonist treatment and psychosocial treatments tailored to youth.
- Intensive outpatient treatment—may include counselling and group therapy 3-5 days per week.
- Residential treatment—intensive treatment in a structured residential context.
- Pharmacotherapy—evidence-based pharmacological (prescription medication) treatment for certain substance use disorders. For example, opioid agonist treatment for opioid use disorder (see below for more information on opioid agonist treatment). Pharmacotherapy options can be used in combination with the treatment options listed above.
- Harm reduction programs—these aim to reduce the health, social, and economic harms associated with drug use. Harm reduction programs include needle exchanges, take-home naloxone kits, and overdose prevention sites.
- Overdose prevention sites—locations where people can use drugs with trained staff or volunteers who can provide education on safer consumption practices, provide harm reduction supplies, and respond to overdoses.
- Supervised consumption sites—staff supervise and monitor clients for signs of overdose, provide education on safer injection practices, and refer to primary care and addiction care.
- Drug checking services—currently being scaled up in BC, but available in some overdose prevention and safe injection sites.
- Safe supported housing—housing with associated support services.
- Street outreach programs—support services and bridges to the system of care.
- Supportive recovery services—longer-term transitional housing and support services.
- Pregnancy support services—support services to at-risk pregnant women and their families.
- Withdrawal management—medical management to prevent withdrawal symptoms from certain substances.
Resources for Finding Treatment Options
If your child or loved one is between the ages of 12-24, they can access Foundry, which is building a provincial network of integrated health and social services and provides evidence-based mental health and substance use care. All Foundry centres provide primary care, substance use and mental health services (including opioid agonist treatment at many sites), and can provide referrals to other services in the community when needed.
In communities where Foundry centres do not yet exist, your child or loved one’s primary care provider can refer them to child and youth mental health and substance use services through their local health authority.
For older adults, their primary care provider may be able to provide addiction care or refer them to an addictions specialist or other treatment options.
- HealthLink BC: call 8-1-1, from anywhere in B.C. to speak to a nurse 24 hours a day.
- Substance use services and treatment support
- Fraser Health: Overdose resources for schools and parents
- BC Centre for Disease Control: Toward The Heart
- Kelty Mental Health Resource Center: Substance Use
- Foundry: Substance Use
- Here to Help: You and Substance Use (PDF)
- iMinds: Art of Motivation
Opioid Agonist Treatments (OAT) is an evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder. A list of clinics in BC accepting new patients is available here.
Treatment and supportive recovery services are live-in or bed-based substance use services that offer a range of programs and supports to help people who are looking to reduce or abstain from substances, and/or reduce harms associated with substance use. Programs can vary both in length, types of services offered, model of care and intensity of supports available.
Below is a list of services available in communities in B.C. and where to find additional information, including service provider websites and information on complaints.