The executive director of Richmond Addiction Services Society is urging local and federal governments to continue investing in harm reduction and clinical supports for substance abuse ahead of cannabis legalization.
“Whenever you increase the availability of a substance, you usually increase the usage,” Rick Dubras told the Richmond News. “Therefore there might be more of a demand for prevention.”
Various studies have shown mixed results about whether legalization is correlated with increased use in the U.S.
Nevertheless, Dubras wants to ensure his organization has the resources to help people as more may try cannabis after legalization.
RASS supports youth up to 24 with substance use problems by providing counselling for individuals and families at their clinic and running outreach programs to pierce the stigma surrounding addictions.
“There’re usually reasons, and very good reasons, for people to use. Part of recovery process is to create alternatives for people to turn to. This is about the entirety of what is involved in being a happy and healthy person,” he said.
Although proponents of legalization say it will make cannabis easier to regulate, Dubras pointed to less than water-tight enforcement of rules around alcohol.
“Kids get bootlegged alcohol all the time when adults think it’s no big deal,” he said.
Some people credit cannabis use with helping them wean off of more dangerous drugs, like opioids or cocaine. Dubras has heard that in his work, but says it’s only one part of a larger continuum of therapies.
“It can be seen as harm reduction but it can be seen as continuing with addiction,” he said. “So is opioid replacement therapy. It’s all part of a [treatment] strategy.”
Dubras says talk of drug use surrounding cannabis legalization as an opportunity to ask for better help for those with substance use issues.
“We want comprehensive funding to all levels of prevention. We want enhanced health promotion initiatives, harm reduction services and treatment.”
If you or someone you know needs substance use help in Richmond, there are several options for treatment.
- Richmond Addictions Support Society for youth 24 and under 604-270-9220
- Transitions – Richmond Public Health 604-244-5488
- Anne Vogel Clinic for opioid dependence 604-675-3975
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