Public perceptions about the seriousness of substance abuse are not consistent with actual costs, says new report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

    OTTAWA, March 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadians have an exaggerated view of the
harms associated with illegal drug use, but consistently underestimate the
serious negative impact of alcohol on society and the economy, says a new
research report released today by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
(CCSA), Canada's national organization working to reduce alcohol- and
drug-related harm.
    CCSA researchers analyzed data from the 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey
(CAS) and The Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada (2002) and found that direct
social and economic costs associated with alcohol ($7.4 billion) were more
than twice the costs associated with illicit drugs ($3.6 billion). However,
when Canadians were asked in the CAS to rate problems at the national level,
only 25% of Canadians identified alcohol abuse as "very serious" while 45%
felt that illicit drug abuse was very serious. The report points to public
opinion data that suggest that the perceived level of risk associated with a
particular substance is highest among those who are least personally familiar
with that substance.
    "The divergence between the perceived seriousness and actual costs points
to the need to reset public misconceptions about the size and scope of illicit
drug abuse in Canada, especially injection drug use, and to better educate
Canadians about the significant and largely unrecognized risks of alcohol,"
said Rita Notarandrea, CCSA's Director of Research and Policy.
    The research report, Comparing the Perceived Seriousness and Actual Costs
of Substance Abuse in Canada, points out that institutional, social and
cultural factors (including media) play a significant role in amplifying or
downplaying perceived levels of risk. For example, as a legal commodity,
alcohol is heavily promoted through advertising while its negative aspects are
largely under-reported. As for illicit drugs, perceptions of their seriousness
are likely skewed by the tendency of the media to report on vivid but
relatively rare cases of drug abuse.
    A current example of this can be seen in policy responses to
methamphetamine use. While acknowledging that methamphetamine is a dangerous
drug that is relatively easy to manufacture and whose use is increasing in
some jurisdictions in Canada, the report argues that overall rates of use are
small compared with other substances, as are the total health and social harms
derived from its misuse. "(This) does raise questions about the
appropriateness of methamphetamine as a primary driver for substance abuse
policy, which it currently appears to be in a number of jurisdictions in
Canada," the report states.

    To access the full report and for information on how CCSA is involved in
addressing these issues, please visit the website at

    About CCSA:

    CCSA has a legislated mandate to provide national leadership and
evidence-informed analysis and advice to mobilize collaborative efforts to
reduce alcohol- and drug-related harms. CCSA is supported by Health Canada
through Canada's Drug Strategy.

For further information:

For further information: Brooke Bryce, Canadian Centre on Substance
Abuse (CCSA), (613) 235-4048, ext. 243,

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Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

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