5 Important Things to Know About Addiction for Your Community Support Worker Career

Substance use disorders are one of the most common health problems facing Canada today. According to the Government of British Columbia, “one in five British Columbians will be affected by a mental health and/or substance use problem this year.” People with substance use disorders require a variety of resources to help them battle addiction, and treatments and how well they work may depend on the person and their unique situation. 

Community support workers are equipped with the ability to recognize people who have an addiction and offer support services and other forms of advocacy to help them. However, addiction is a complicated and multifaceted disease, and we are still learning to address the problems and stigma surrounding it. Here are a few things you should know about addiction if you’re considering enrolling in a community support worker program. 

Addiction May Be Difficult to Define

Addiction comes in all shapes and forms, but it is generally defined as a dependency on a substance with negative consequences. These consequences can range from mild, such as not studying enough for a test due to a night of drinking, to serious, such as homelessness. 

Because of the range of levels of addiction, it can be difficult for someone, or their family and friends, to understand when a dependency becomes a problem. Harmful consequences may be harder to notice if they’re adding up slowly over time. Some people may be in a state of denial, unable to see that their substance use has become a problem either due to an inability to recognize an issue or a fear to face what they already know. As someone entering a community support worker career, it’s part of the job to learn how to recognize when someone with a substance use disorder needs help. 

It can often be difficult for those with an addiction to recognize it

Risks for Substance Use Disorders Often Occur Early in Life

Addiction typically doesn’t just start out of nowhere. Instead, it is often caused by a variety of underlying factors that begin early on in someone’s life. Risk factors include stressors at home such as experiencing poverty or exposure to alcohol or drug problems, confidence issues, and peer pressure to try drugs or alcohol. substance use disorders can also arise as a response to trauma, such as experiencing abuse or experiencing discrimination. In these cases, addiction may become a coping mechanism. For some, their addiction may be due to genetic traits that leave them vulnerable to developing an addiction. 

Those with Community Support Worker Training Should Be Familiar With the Signs of Addiction

How can graduates of community support worker college spot addiction in their clients? While substance use disorders can sometimes be obvious, it can often be difficult to tell whether someone is struggling with addiction. People may use substances to escape from hard-to-confront realities, and when used this way, substance use can turn into a habit that is difficult to change. Signs of addiction may include risk-taking, money problems, secrecy, changes in appetite, legal problems, and feelings such as emptiness, hopelessness, or depression. 

People Who Have an Addiction Face Stigma

While someone with an addiction may know that they need help, getting help can be difficult due to the stigma surrounding addiction. The stigma surrounding addiction often places blame on the individual, leading to experiences of shame. Stigma may come from misinformation surrounding addiction, such as thinking that addiction is a choice, that it can be controlled, or that addiction isn’t possible in people with extensive support systems. There is already work being done to challenge these stigmas, such as encouraging open and informed dialogue about addiction. People with an addiction should know that they are not alone, that they should not be ashamed, and that help is available. 

There Are Many Ways to Help

People with addiction can find help in a variety of forms, and choosing the right treatment depends on how serious the addiction is or what type of addiction it is. Community support workers have a role in many of these forms of treatment, including mutual aid groups, self-help work, counseling, and more. These methods work to help people heal and to live in new ways without their addiction. 

Are you ready to start your community support worker training

Check out Discovery Community College’s program options today.

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