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.”
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?
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Photo credit: Samat Jain on flickr