Wednesday 14 May 10:30 a.m.

Our second session this morning was a presentation by Gordon Harper of the Umbrella Society on addiction.

When Substance Abuse Becomes a Problem

Our health care system treats substance abuse as if it were an anomaly. Addiction funding is 20% of what it needs to be considering the prevalence of the problem.

Psychoactive substance abuse almost always begins with a naive attempt to alter mood or to manage physical or psychological pain. We have been encouraged to believe there is a pill for every ill. We are being pushed into being a drug dependent culture.

There is a social imperative in highschool for kids to get drunk.

What we now call Substance Use Disorder was once called Dependence – both point to the fact that any substance or experience that produces and activation of mid-brain dopamine circuitry producing rapid euphoria may become problematic.

Short term pleasure is a more powerful reinforcer than mid or long term consequences.

The prevalence of problematic substance abuse:

10% in any population
20% in any family physician waiting room
30% or more in any acute care hospital setting
40% or more in any emergency room
65% or more in all child protection cases
80% of all people in the corrections system
90% of police calls (excluding traffic detail)
100% expectation of co-occurring mental health issues

Alcohol and other drugs are not the cause of addiction.

High tolerance rate at the beginning of consumption is a real warning sign.

Genetic history increases risk but may be less prevalent than is usually thought.

Some kind of past trauma is the big factor in causing addiction.

Just as the way into addiction is not the same for everyone, so the way to recovery is different for each person.

There are a very few people who just wake up one day and quit.

At the other end of the spectrum there are people who try and try and just never get there – whose failure is this? How do we continue to treat these people with respect? What resources do we provide for them?

For an addict the needs of their addiction precede any other need on Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs.

Harm reduction and recovery exist on a continuum. Harm reduction is a way of supporting people who may eventually be ready to change but just aren’t there yet.

Problematic substance abuse my be a way people are struggling to adapt to desperately difficult situations, a way of coping with pain. So we tell people first they must give up their primary coping mechanism then we will offer them help.

When speaking to an addict use “we” – what are we going to do about this.  Offer them love and respect. It is all about knowing that you are still valuable as a human being.


11:30 Eucharist: Presider and Homilist The Rev. Austin Spry Associate Priest St. George’s Cadboro Bay

I met many people who are spiritual but not religious when I was doing my Agricultural Degree at UBC. Generally, they are profoundly counter-cultural people.

Imagine reading Isaiah 5:8 in our current context

Ah, you who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is room for no one but you,
and you are left to live alone
in the midst of the land!

It’s the suburbs and the devastation we are causing on the land.

There are three concerns in society – to be: economically profitable, environmentally sustainable and socially sustainable

Goverments get the first one, but who is concerned about the other two?

UBC is concerned about economics. We Agis were at odds with the powers that be. We knew that we were living in Babylon and we were fearless about stating our truth.

I promised myself back then that I would never forget that.

We in the church have been the darlings of the State. But this has changed in the last 60 years. We are heading into exile. We are pilgrims. Go to the Book of Revelation. I think there is something in there about the NDP getting elected in Alberta.

Think what it is like when a relationship comes to an end. There are always signs along the way before we get there. We get scared. It’s over and we need to look beyond our attachment to that past relationship. We are rolling into something new.

We have an opportunity to do some new stuff. We are counter-cultural now. We get to do a bit of crazy.

There is a group out there outside the church speaking the Gospel; they just don’t know it’s the Gospel. Maybe we should affirm these people with a theology of generosity.

Speak your truth. This is not a time to be timid.