National Addictions Awareness Week
50% of people who abuse drugs also suffer from mental health problems
Montréal, November 20, 2013 – During National Addictions Awareness Week, which runs from November 18 to 24, Portage is seeking to raise awareness about the co-occurrence of mental health problems and substance abuse, a problem that has grown on a worldwide scale by 38% between 1990 and 2010 . On a national scale, the cost related to this issue in terms of loss of productivity is estimated at approximately $33 billion per year .
Though 50% of people who abuse drugs also suffer from mental health problems, all too often they are treated for only one of these issues at a time. In Canada, more than 35% of psychiatric inpatients between the ages of 15 to 65  suffer from both mental health problems and addiction. Not only is their stay 19% longer than the average, but these patients are 25% more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within one year of discharge.
“Caring for these vulnerable people, who are suffering tremendously, is very difficult. The high rate of recurrence is straining the healthcare system, which is not entirely equipped to offer the necessary services to this population,” states psychiatrist, researcher, and director of the Unité de psychiatrie des toxicomanies at the CHUM, Dr. Didier Jutras-Aswad. “These patients have very complex needs, which is why it’s so important to provide them with integrated services that can address both issues at the same time.”
Since 1995, Portage’s Mentally Ill Chemical Abusers (MICA) Program has been doing just that. Previously supported by the private sector and now by the Government of Québec, this residential drug rehabilitation program helps men suffering from both mental illness (primarily schizophrenia) and substance abuse, treating the two disorders as well as their interaction.
Every year, Portage’s MICA program helps sixty men overcome their drug addiction issues and learn how to manage their mental illness, so that they can reintegrate back into society as productive citizens.
“The need for this type of treatment is steadily increasing, and given the financial impact of this clientele on the healthcare system, funding for programs such as ours is critical,” states Antonio Maturo, Director of Portage’s MICA Program. “The costs of treatment are minor compared to those generated by multiple visits to the emergency room when these people are in crisis.”
To create more awareness among government officials, a delegation of Portage staff members and residents are meeting with 13 Québec MNA’s from different political parties today.
Portage is an accredited non-profit organisation that has been helping people overcome their substance abuse issues and reintegrate back into society since 1973. Portage operates drug addiction rehabilitation treatment centres in Québec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and British Columbia, providing a variety of services tailored to the needs of its specific clienteles: adults, adolescents, mothers with young children and pregnant women, and people suffering from both drug addiction and mental illness.
 The Lancet, Volume 382, Issue 9904, pp. 1575-1586, November 9, 2013. “Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010”
 Martin Shain et. al., Mental Health and Substance Use at Work: Perspective from Research and Implications for Leaders, working paper prepared for the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, November 14, 2002 (unpublished).
 Canadian Institute for Health Information – Hospital Mental Health Services for Concurrent Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders in Canada, updated May 2013.