CAMH Study Explores Regional Differences
TORONTO, Aug. 21 /CNW/ - If you think the big cities of Toronto and
Montreal have the highest rate of alcohol and drug use problems, think again.
A new study entitled "Geographical Variation in the Prevalence of Problematic
Substance Use in Canada" authored by three researchers from the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) discovered that Ontario and Quebec had
markedly lower concentrations of people with alcohol and drug problems.
With a Canada-wide prevalence of substance use problems estimated at 11%,
the study found that estimates were particularly low in the urban corridor
between Toronto and Montreal. This low level of alcohol and drug use problems
contrasts with higher rates in both the eastern and western provinces of
Canada. Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia were
all significantly higher than the national average.
Prevalence is higher in mid-sized cities than in larger ones or in rural
areas. Although age, sex, employment, and physical health are all strongly
associated with substance use problems, these factors did not explain the
The CAMH researchers discuss a number of explanations for their findings.
"Major cities include large numbers of immigrants, among whom drug and alcohol
problems are less common. People who decide to come to Canada, and are
accepted, tend to be healthy and high-functioning, and some immigrant cultures
also reject alcohol and drug use," said Scott Veldhuizen, Research Analyst at
CAMH. The study's co-authors are CAMH Dr. John Cairney, Research Scientist and
Project Scientist Karen Urbanoski.
Other possible factors discussed include migration within Canada,
differences in the availability of alcohol or illicit drugs, the accessibility
of treatment, the local culture, and local policies. While pointing to the
role of social context in the development or remission of problem substance
use, the authors also cite existing work on the potential effect of living at
higher latitudes on the development of drug and alcohol problems.
"The pattern of large-scale differences is probably part of a larger
disparity among regions in Canada. Research has already shown that levels of
crime and other social problems are somewhat higher in western Canada, and
this may be part of the same pattern. A role for latitude is possible - there
is already some evidence of a link with depression, which often occurs with
substance use problems - but this is an area where more work needs to be
done," Veldhuizen commented.
As well as pointing out some clear directions for future research, the
study also concludes the need for policy that is flexible and locally
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's leading
addiction and mental health teaching hospital. Integrating clinical care,
scientific research, education, policy development and health promotion, CAMH
transforms the lives of people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.
For further information:
For further information: Michael Torres, CAMH Media Relations
Coordinator, at (416) 595-6015, or Public_Affairs@camh.net