Open Letter – During Addictions Awareness Week, which took place from November 20 to 26 in Québec, Portage sent an open letter to the media and to elected officials in the regions of Québec where Portage provides services.
Investing in substance abuse prevention and treatment: an incredible return on investment
The importance of prevention, the fight against drug and alcohol abuse, raising awareness about the consequences of drugs – all of these concepts have become so common place that their relevance is sometimes overlooked; and yet, nothing could be more relevant.
A 2008 study conducted by the Institut de la statistique du Québec , reveals that on average, adolescents start consuming drugs on a regular basis at 13.9 years of age. Moreover, a report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse  states that excessive substance abuse during adolescence increases the risk of developing problems that will extend into adulthood, such as addiction and chronic illnesses.
In 2002, illegal drug abuse related costs in Québec amounted to $1.6 billion. The majority of these costs stemmed from loss of productivity (57%), and health care costs amounted to $225 million. Only 36% was dedicated to substance abuse treatment.
What results could we see if we were to modify these percentages by investing more into substance abuse rehabilitation services? A Léger Marketing  survey shows that 82% of Quebecers feel that drug addiction is a very disturbing public health issue and 78% feel that the government should provide more funding for drug addiction treatment programs.
Portage is a non profit organisation dedicated to the reintegration of people suffering from substance abuse back into the community. Government grants help Portage maintain quality services with a high success rate: 70% of people who attended Portage for six months or longer have maintained their sobriety for more than one year after having left the residential phase of the program.
If Portage were to close its doors or cut back on its services, more than a thousand people per year would not be able to free themselves from their addictions, which would translate to additional direct health care costs of $4.7 million . When you factor in that a substance abuser who goes untreated can create costs equivalent to someone with serious health problems, projections over ten years lead us to believe that centres such as Portage could easily save nearly $1.9 billion in additional costs.
Beyond the numbers, we are faced with tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of years of productive life lost. It rapidly becomes clear that investing in quality substance abuse rehabilitation services provides an incredible return on investment.
It is high time that the fight against substance abuse becomes a top priority, for obvious social reasons, but also for economic reasons.
Nicole Bureau-Tobin, André Chagnon, Scott Conrod, Alban D’Amours, GOQ, FADMA, Pierre Des Marais II, O.C., Michael Di Grappa, Brian Evans, Peter Howlett, Laurent Giguère, FCA, Jacques Lefebvre, ASC, Gary Mintz, Denise Périgny, Guy Pomerleau, MD, Anne St-Georges.
The signatories are members of the Portage Board of Governors and together represent hundreds of years of community service helping Portage residents achieve Freedom from Addiction.
 L’Enquête québécoise sur le tabac, l’alcool, la drogue et le jeu chez les élèves du secondaire, Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2008
 Cross-Canada Report on Student Alcohol and Drug use, CCSA, October 2011
 Quebecers and Substance Abuse, November 2010
 SECOR study, December 2010