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The City of Lethbridge has a population of around 101,482; it’s a relatively small city, but it has a big drug problem, and in recent years, residents of the city have watched drug-related activity grow.

Lethbridge has one government funded safe consumption site; shockingly, it is the busiest supervised consumption site in Canada and most sites in major European cities. However, at this site, many of the patients find it is more like a home than anywhere they know, and it is here that the staff learns more about the people using the site. Most people here have suffered trauma. Their stories always hold pain. Addiction is mostly always about numbing pain.

The Stories behind the Addiction

Most of the people here have a history of abuse, but in addition to trauma from abuse, for many people, the lack of support and connection are the missing elements that could help them overcome their addiction.
One man says he uses drugs to escape the oppressing loneliness and dismal future that he believes lies ahead. For many people addicted to substance abuse, the lack of connection to a family or community is often a major obstacle to recovery. A lack of purpose is another stumbling block, and many recovering addicts need to find purpose in their lives to help them avoid the temptation to reuse.

The people who work at the site don’t always hear the stories of recovery, but there is one success story that they are happy to see every day.

This woman was the site’s first overdose patient. She had overdosed several times, but each overdose had been arrested by the staff at the site. With the help of her peers, she eventually managed to overcome her addiction and is now working at the site as a helper.

She says that her job has given her a consistent income and a place to live, but more than that, it has helped her connect to community and it has given her a purpose in life. She now helps other addicts on the path to recovery.

Connection, Community, and Addiction

Lethbridge has always had an addiction problem. It used to be alcohol but now it is drugs. Many blame the poverty and lack of housing for contributing to the problem and indeed, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs of shelter and food must be met before a person can begin to attain higher goals of relationships and purpose.

The cycle of poverty, trauma, pain, and addiction are tied together. For an addict to fully recover, all areas that lead to addiction must be addressed.

There is a harm reduction specialist onsite at the consumption center. She likes to work in the observation room because it allows her to connect with the patients. She states that making these connections with patients is a vitally important first step to helping people on the path to recovery.

“It’s through connections that people feel that they matter, that they feel worthy. If this place wasn’t here and they were just hiding out under the bridge or in the back alley… would those ideas (of recovery) even come to mind?”

The goal for many, she says, is to exit their current life of addiction and build a better future. But first, they have to believe that a better future is possible, and to do that, they need support.

If you know someone who is dealing with an addiction, take the time to understand that there is pain and trauma that led to the addiction. Recovery is possible, but for an addict to stay on the path to sobriety, they need help.

Professional help is available. A drug intervention is often the first step of the process that tells the patient he or she has people who care deeply about them and want to help them through this difficult process.

If you or a loved one need help navigating a drug addiction problem, call an interventionist and get the information you need to take the next step.