Health Canada’s “Youth Smoking Survey” reveals that the abuse of prescription painkillers is five times greater amongst Inuit youth than among non-Aboriginal youth.
In a presentation at the Canadian Public Health Association’s annual conference, Cheryl Currie, an epidemiologist and an assistant professor of public health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta further detailed that 18.4 per cent of Inuit youth, 11 per cent of First Nations youth, and 8.8 per cent of Métis youth abuse prescription pain relievers, sedatives/tranquilizers or stimulants.
Currie associated the high rates of substance abuse among Inuit youth with the increased racism and discrimination they face when migrating to urban centres. In an analysis of the data, Currie found a causal relationship of feelings of school connectedness on a reduction in prescription drug abuse. The impacts of school connectedness on reducing prescription drug abuse were larger for Aboriginal youth than for other youth.
Ryan Callaghan, a researcher at the Centre for Addition and Mental Health, cautioned that Currie’s conclusions are based on limited evidence and a small sample size and urges a coordinated approach to the issues around drug abuse in Aboriginal youth.
In 2011, a national framework to address substance abuse issues among Aboriginals was created in response to a review of the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program. One of the framework’s recommendations was increased collection of local data for stronger evidence related to Aboriginal substance abuse.
For more information, visit www.cmaj.ca.
To read the national framework for addressing substance abuse issues among Aboriginals, “Honouring Our Strengths: A Renewed Framework to Address Substance Use Issues Among First Nations People in Canada,” visitwww.nnadaprenewal.ca.