Barriers to Substance Use Recovery

This week is National Addictions Awareness Week and in that spirit, we will be discussing common addiction issues that some Londoner’s face and how this affects our community and what we can do to alleviate the issue.

People that suffer from substance use and addiction are not just illegal drug users; they are anyone whom is addicted to using a substance to get through their day – smokers are substance users. In fact, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) led the assembly of a federal-provincial partnership for a second Canadian substance abuse cost study. In 2002, the dates for the study, it was estimated that the total societal cost of substance abuse to be at $39.8 billion. If we break that down, tobacco users accounted for $17 billion, alcohol users accounted for $14.6 billion, and illegal drug users only accounted for $8.2 billion.1

What are some barriers that substance users experience?

Did you know that 1 in 10 Canadians struggle with substance abuse and 83% of those experience barriers to recovery? 2

1. Not being completely committed to treatment

Sometimes people simply don’t feel ready to tackle their addictions. Some people are substance users because they are self-medicating; attempting to alleviate physical or emotional trauma that they’ve experienced. Although it might seem like they are choosing this life, they are in too much emotional pain and, for whatever reason, do not feel as though they can reach out and get the proper treatment.

2. Not seeking treatment for other mental health issues

A lot of people have concurrent disorders. This means that they might not just have mental health issues but they also have substance use issues. Concurrent disorders can be mental health issues that evolve into a substance use problem and vice versa. Often, agencies will try to help people target one problem at a time. They will get them treatment for their addiction but not their mental health. So very quickly after their recovery they return to their old habits and can restart their harmful use. This is also true of the reverse situation where mental health might be treated first and not their addiction.

3. Spending time around negative influences

A lot of these barriers are inter-related. Beds in psychiatric wards are limited so those that miss out on treatment centres might find themselves falling through the cracks in the social system and forced to live in homeless shelters. This sort of environment creates better opportunities for substance use and other harmful behaviour.

4.Stigma as a barrier to recovery

Stigma is one of the biggest barriers to recovery and it is one of the barriers that connect all of the barriers together. Some people avoid seeking treatment as they are afraid of what others might say. A person suffering from substance use could be anyone – a father/mother, brother/sister, co-worker, etc. If someone has secretly been managing a substance use issue and they know people that judge as evidenced on verbiage, then they will be less likely to seek help.


Last year Canada performed a nationwide survey that surveyed 855 respondents. 82.5% of the respondents disclosed that they had experienced one or more barriers to initiating recovery with 50% reporting that they were worried about what people would think of them. 3 

Below is a handy infographic that explains more about stigmatic language and how by using person-first language we can begin to reverse stereotypes about addiction so that people will have better access to treatment.

So, by simply changing our language when discussing substance use we can help foster an environment where people will feel more comfortable coming forward to receive help, especially before it becomes a debilitating problem that can be harder to recover from.

What are some resources in London?

London has several resources that can help offer support, guidance, and information.

Addiction Services of Thames Valley
Located at 200 Queens Ave.
Phone: 519-673-3242
Provides screening, assessments, treatment planning and addiction treatment services. They can also provide support, education and treatment for family members.

London Cares
Located at 186 King St.
Phone: 519-667-2273
A program run through Addiction Services of Thames Valley, London Cares offers street outreach, a clean needle program as well as needle clean up, and housing assistance. They can offer information and referrals to other agencies in London. They also bring clothing to those in need – consider donating if you can.

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
Located at 648 Huron St
Phone: 519-434-9191
Provides recovery-focused programs and services for people of all ages and their families. They offer bereavement support, case management (one-on-one support for persons with mental health needs that interfere with ability to function in areas such as daily living, housing, finances, employment, education, relationship, leisure, and health), clinical services, community programs, crisis services, crisis stabilization space, eating disorder residence and transitional housing, family support, and many, many, other programs.

The Salvation Army – Centre of Hope – Withdrawal Management Centre
Located at 281 Wellington St
Phone: 519-661-0343 ext 270 or ext 271
Provides 18 beds for people 16 years and older for clients whom are looking to pursue sobriety in a safe and caring environment. This is done through detoxification, provincial assessment, and referral to treatment.

Turning Point
Located at 612 Mornington Ave
Phone: 519-659-9618
With their philosophy based on the 12 steps, they offer individual counseling, group counseling, basic life skills, and social and recreational treatment.

London InterCommunity Health Centre
Located at 659 Dundas St
Phone: 519-660-0874
Provides health and social services to those who experience barriers to care. Barriers may include poverty, homelessness, language or culture, and complex and/or chronic health conditions including mental health and addictions.

Quintin Warner House
Located at 477 Queen St
Phone: 519-434-8041
A branch of Mission Services of London that offers a 14-bed addiction treatment centre. Males aged 18 years and older can access this four month long residential program. Men can work to overcome addictions and address issues such as anger and trauma histories.

Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
Located at #30-186 King St
Phone: 1-866-920-1601
Provides support and counselling services, education and resources related to safer sex, needle and syringe program, and strong relationships with people in the community and other community organizations.

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties with substance use or mental health, consider reaching out to the agency that best can help.


1“Costs of Problematic Substance Use.” Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. 2017. Web.

2“When it Comes to Substance Use Disorders Words Matter.” Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. 2017. Web.

3“Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada.” Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. 2017. Web.