Skip to content

Let’s cut the ‘and’ in ‘Mental Health and Addictions’

We need to acknowledge that addiction is a mental health issue

Separating addiction from mental illness is untenable now that the province is five years into an opioid epidemic. Yet the provincial government baked this fallacy into public policy with its 2017 launch of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

Victoria wouldn’t tack “and COVID-19” onto the Ministry of Health’s title, because that would seem to place the novel coronavirus outside the sphere of medicine. That would be a terrible PR move, now that the virus has killed over 1,500 British Columbians. It is well to note here that more than 7,000 British Columbians have died in illicit drug overdoses since the province declared the opioid epidemic in April 2016.

In order to understand what we’re up against, we must therefore arrive at a medical definition. A quick Google search brings us to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, which explains that addiction is “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.”

As Boundary Family Services director Darren Pratt reminded mayor and council Monday, April 12, addiction is a medically treated illness. It’s clinically described in the American Psychiatric Association’s latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM 5) as a brain disorder.

One is free to argue that addiction is a moral failing on the part of suffering addicts, but there’s no scientific basis for this.

Meanwhile, if there was a scientific rationale behind the “Mental Health and Addictions” distinction, it’d be nice to hear it.

Laurie Tritschler