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British Columbia to Recognize Alcoholism as Medical Condition

British Columbia to Recognize Alcoholism as Medical Condition

In March 2011, British Columbia (BC) became the first Canadian province to recognize alcoholism as a medical condition. This change, which went into effect on April 1, makes it easier for patients to access preventative measures and treatment for alcoholism.

This change was one of ten recommendations made by the BC Medical Assocation as part of its 2009 Stepping Forward report on Improving Addiction Care in BC. In the introduction to the report, the BC Minister of Health is quoted as saying:

“As long as there is one individual who is out on the street, who is homeless, who is wanting to deal with a mental health issue and is not getting the support or has an addiction issue and is not getting the support, then I’m not going to be satisfied.” 

The report also touches on the connection between mental illness and addiction, noting that “30% of people diagnosed with a mental illness will also have a substance abuse disorder in their lifetime and 37% of people with an alcohol disorder (53% who have a drug disorder other than alcohol) also live with mental illness.”

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This change also gives health professionals more resources and allows them to spend more time treating alcoholism. Experts are hoping that this move will allow doctors to address the problem sooner with their patients, with the hope that preventative measures will result in a decrease in serious cases of alcoholism (as it does with conditions like diabetes).

According to the CBC, Dr. Ray Baker, a doctor who specializes in addictions, thinks this is an important step in the right direction that will help to destigmatize the problem.

Is alcoholism treated as a medical condition where you live? Is prevention and treatment covered by your insurance?

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Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

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Photo credit: Samat Jain on flickr

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27 comments

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3:05PM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

NO, NO, NO, alcoholism is an addiction, a bad habit, a choice.
I was married for years to one, and once he was convinced it was an addiction, a way to escape, and that it solved nothing, that it actually only added to his many problems he quit, NO MEDICATION, no treatment, ONLY WILL POWER.

12:00PM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

Thanks for helping to bring this out in the open Annie U. Alcohol is a disease in my opinion.
The B.C. Government is doing the right thing. They have also changed the laws of drinking and driving. (sorry can't remember what a person is only allowed to blow, but it is qite a bit lower).

3:12AM PDT on Apr 9, 2011

All addiction is a medical issue, if drugs were treated in such a way rather than having a war on drugs, which looking at the amount of deaths appears to suggest drugs are winning. The thing about alcohol is that there are people with a genetic prepostion to alcoholism and this should be addressed instead of sticking them in the back room with a bottle of whisky shouting "Arse, Feck, Drink,Girls".

9:22PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Make a positive change, It may help.

6:32PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

Dear Nancy Roussy,
We often have different opinions (by the way, it is the case for this article) but I'm concerned that you say your life is sad and empty. You deserve to have good and fun people around you, to have access to a lot of interesting activities, and to be full of projects. I hope you find the reason for your sadness and that your feeling of voïd goes away quickly, and permanently. I'm proud that, despite the "crap", you were able to stay away from problems of addiction.
I really hope your path becomes clearer, and wider, and sunnier.

5:44PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

I live in BC and BC has a branch of health care known as "Mental Health and Addictions" simply because they are so closely linked. Concurrent Disorders is a term for having both issues. This move by the BC government is progressive.

5:29PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

This is total and complete crap! Addictions have nothing to do with diseases! Addictions are a choice! My life is sad, empty, pathetic and crap but I did not choose to start drinking alcohol, smoke and use drugs! I could have used countless reasons and excuses but I still did not do it, in fact, despite being stupid and having had nobody sit down with me and explain life I knew that all that crap would have made my life worst as it already is and given me more problems than I already have! Calling any addiction an illness and saying that being obese is an handicap is spitting in the face of truely sick and handicap people!

4:36PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

Thank you Rose M. It is good to hear from someone educated in the field, rather than someone who is afraid a penny of their tax dollar may go to someone less fortunate than themselves,it is amazing what effect fear has on the way some people think.

4:19PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

Alcoholism and addiction is a disease process.Anybody who thinks someone voluntarily becomes an alcoholic/addict is very misinformed about the muli-levelled process of addiction.80% of female alcoholic /addicts grew up in homes rife with abuse addiction and chaos.75% of male alcoholic addicts were victims of physical,sexual and emotional abuse due to substance abuse by their chief caregivers.But the intergenerational pattern of abuse, neglect,violence and substance abuse is only part of the picture.We inherit a genetic pre-disposition to becoming addicted.People don't know this when they first experiment and that first use can quickly escalate to abuse and addiction.Lets stop blaming people for a disease process and start treating it.Good for BC. in taking the scientifically proved medical approach to this difficult disease.As a substance abuse counsellor I have seen the need for this diagnosis for many years.

3:16PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

Alcohol addiction is no different from any addiction. Yes and in a sense it is a disease as in unease. But it is not a chronic disease as in artherosclerosis and cancer, or osteo and others which are caused by denaturation and chemical pollutants. Alcoholism is a metabolic process that developes into an addiction like drug taking and is caused by over indulgence for what ever eason, but it is self imposed. No one forces the stuff down anybodies throats.

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