British Columbia is in the midst of an overdose crisis.
Why are we relying on unproven treatments?
In 2016, CBC journalists Yvette Brend and Manjula Dufresne phoned every drug rehab facility in British Columbia. They found that:
Many more — in fact the majority that we spoke to — adhere to AA or 12-step regimes, and resist harm reduction as a waste of time. They insist it's all nonsense, despite compelling science.
While many people have stopped drinking or taking drugs after attending Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs, there is no good scientific evidence that these programs work. Further, US courts have repeatedly ruled that AA's program is religious and that the government cannot require someone to attend without violating their religious freedom.
People should have the freedom to choose the recovery option that works for them, but right now many don't have the option.
With long wait times at overcrowded facilities, for British Columbians seeking treatment, a faith-based program might be the only option. Others aren't even given an option as employers and courts in BC are still mandating people attend AA and a 12-step program might be the only option for people in correctional facilities.
Doctors, the healthcare system, employers and our judicial system should prioritize access to secular and evidence-based treatment programs. To do otherwise is to continue losing lives and wasting limited resources.
Help us tell the Government of BC to support recovery methods that are based on the best available evidence and inclusive of people of all faiths and none.
Hon Adrian Dix, Minister of Health
Hon Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
British Columbia remains in the midst of an overdose and fentanyl crisis. Every day that we continue to rely on antiquated treatments costs lives.
Commendably, the province has taken steps to ensure harm reduction and evidence-based treatments are at the forefront of its response. However, for far too many people their only recovery options rely on unproven and faith-based treatments like Alcoholics Anonymous and twelve-step programs.
We call on the Government of BC to ensure every patient seeking treatment for a substance use issue has access to secular, evidence-based treatment options, by:
- Expanding support for secular, evidence-based addictions treatment programs and ensure no public support is given to faith-based programs,
- Regulating and inspecting addictions treatment facilities to protect patients' freedom of and freedom from religion, and
- Informing physicians, mental health professionals, social workers, employers, unions and judges of secular, evidence-based addictions treatment programs and their duty to protect a person with an addiction from religious coercion.