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Drug Rehab Centers for the First Nations

Last updated on: Friday, 8 March 2024

Substance use is a significant problem among Native and Indigenous peoples of Canada. There are excellent resources to consider, and many that offer cultural support. We offer a list of rehab centers for Native Americans for each province to help you or your loved one get help.


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Indigenous people of Canada are prone to alcohol and drug addiction, and the problem is felt all over the country. Substance abuse is prevalent in many of the isolated Canadian communities and a pressing matter in urban settings across the country. Drug rehabilitation programs for First Nations people of Canada are programs that help reduce and fully eradicate drug addiction. Drug rehab programs for first nations people incorporate cultural healing practices. Generally, treatment is personalized and customized, and in line with Indigenous belief systems. Many of the traditional healing techniques that are uniquely practiced among First Nation communities are incorporated in the drug rehab program.

It is easy to see the damage done to the Indigenous peoples of Canada. On many reservations and communities, there is a lack of basic services, clean water, quality of education, and people struggle with various drug addictions include alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction is problematic on most reservations in Canada. Indigenous people of Canada are far more likely to die of alcohol-related causes than anyone else. Native teens are more likely to develop issues with alcohol and drugs. Infant mortality is often high, and heart disease, diabetes, and domestic violence make the situation worse.

Drug rehab centers and support programs for Indigenous people of Canada help to address these problems. Indigenous people are also at an elevated risk of experiencing police violence. Native women go missing every year without finding out what happened. The drug rehabilitation process helps work with each individual and community. Treatment options include inpatient and outpatient drug rehab, day or evening service, couples therapy, family therapy, youth programs, services for women, pregnant women, and people with mental health issues.

The counselling and therapy methods are specific to meet the needs and problems that Indigenous people struggle with. Many of the First Nations people identify their trauma and associated substance use as being directly related to Indian Residential School and the child welfare experience. The purpose of many of these programs is to about prevention, early identification and intervention, screening, assessment and referral, treatment, discharge planning, and aftercare support.

When is Drug Rehab the Best Option for First Nations of Canada?

Drug rehab is the best option for anyone struggling with drug addiction. First Nations drug rehab programs in Canada help the addict treat any severity of drug addiction. Families that begin to notice the indicators of drug addiction should take steps to intervene. Some of the common indicators of drug addiction are having problems at work, school, including poor performance, lateness or absenteeism, and social dysfunction. Other signs of drug addiction include loss of energy or motivation, spending excessive amounts of money on the substance, and obsessing about the next dose.

Additionally, families may notice their loved ones are taking dangerous risks and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to use their drug of choice. Furthermore, they develop a tolerance and dependence and begin to steal to get the drug and lie about their consumption habits. Family and friends may begin to notice behavioural changes along with physical changes. Some of the behavioural changes include strong urges to use the drug and needing more of the drug to get the same effect. Physical health issues, neglected appearance, changes in behaviour, and money issues are common red flags.

When the family is struggling to convince their loved one that they need help, they should consider a family intervention. It is challenging to help a loved one struggling with any type of addiction. People who struggle with addiction are often in denial about their situation and unwilling to seek treatment. In addition, they may not recognize the negative effects their behaviour has on themselves and others. A family intervention is a carefully planned process that is done with family, friends, and an interventionist.

During a family intervention, these people come together to confront the addict about the consequences of addiction and ask them to accept treatment. The intervention provides specific examples of destructive behaviours and their impact on the addict and the family. A family intervention offers prearranged treatment plans with clear steps, goals, and guidelines. In addition, family intervention spells out what each person will do if the addict refuses to accept treatment.

How Do First Nations Drug Rehab Operate?

The drug rehabilitation process involves multiple steps to manage withdrawal symptoms, treat underlying issues, and provide aftercare support. The first step with treatment involves attending a drug detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Typically, the severity of withdrawal and drug addiction determines what method of drug detox is needed. Medical detox programs for First Nations treat more severe drug addiction. For example, this may include chronic alcohol addiction, opioid addiction, or prescription drug addiction. Withdrawal symptoms are too much to manage without medical help.

Clinical drug detox programs for First Nations manage less severe drug addiction. Overall, drug detox should not be considered the only approach to treat drug addiction. A drug detox program will not provide adequate counselling or therapy to address underlying issues. The next phase of treatment involves attending a residential or outpatient drug rehab program. Most drug rehab programs for First Nations incorporate cultural practices and teachings. Both residential and outpatient treatment offers long-term and short-term programs.

Residential drug rehab is the better option because the client lives at the facility during treatment. Aftercare support is also important, and this includes sober living homes, 12-step meetings, peer support groups, and other forms of support. It is important to remain connected to other sober people after drug rehab. It takes time to work on sobriety and continue to learn new ways to prevent relapse. Support meetings that are culturally specific are beneficial, and many of these options are available for First Nations people.

Are there Alternatives to First Nations Substance Abuse Treatment?

The alternatives to traditional drug rehab vary depending on what part of the country the individual lives in. Some alternatives may include 24-hour helplines like Indian Residential School Crisis lines or Hope for Wellness Help Line. Many First Nations offer culturally safe supports like virtual doctors or help through the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. Some options may include virtual substance use counselling services. In addition, there are services offered through First Nations Health Benefits like support programs for residential school survivors, mental health and wellness counselling programs, or missing and murdered indigenous women and girls’ health support services.

Substance Abuse Trends Among Indigenous Peoples of Canada

There many reasons why Indigenous people become addicted to drugs or alcohol. According to some research, many of the problems are linked to colonization and oppression, loss of culture and language, intergenerational trauma, and residential schools. A survey conducted from 2008 to 2010 indicated that 82% of respondents’ communities said that the misuse of alcohol and drugs on the reserve was identified as their primary concern for community wellness. In addition, many reports indicate higher rates of emotional and physical abuse of family members, especially of children and elders.

The First Nations communities that have a higher than average percentage of drug addiction and chemical dependency have higher incidences of suicide, violent crimes, illegal activity, and other abuse. Many of the problems begin at a young age and become generational. According to a survey done with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, the prevalence of alcohol abuse and marijuana use among First Nations on-reserve youth was 23.5% and 14.7%, respectively. Female First Nations youth were more likely to abuse alcohol and use marijuana than male youth. Saskatoon urban youth of the same age was only 5.4% and 2.7%, respectively.

According to a 2017 report in Alberta looking at opioids and substance misuse, rates of apparent accidental opioid drug toxicity death per 100,000 were three times higher among First Nations people compared to non First Nations. From January 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, First Nations people represented 12% of all apparent accidental opioid toxicity deaths in Alberta. Among First Nations people, men and women were nearly equally represented among opioid-related deaths.

According to Health Canada, First Nations people and Inuit experience a disproportionately high prevalence of suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, substance use, and other mental health problems compared to the overall Canadian population. Between 2005 and 2007, the suicide rate among youth under the age of 19 living in areas with a higher First Nations population was 11 times higher for males and 21 times higher for females as compared to youth living in low First Nations populations. Many of the First Nations communities across the country face crises related to suicide, alcohol and drug use, communicable disease, and child welfare apprehensions.

For example, in the 2008-2010 First Nations Regional Health Survey, approximately one-half of all First Nations adults living on-reserve reported either moderate or high levels of psychological distress as compared to 34% of the general population. Alcohol is one of the largest contributors to many of the problems. According to Statista surveying First Nations youth between 2015 and 2016, 28.9% had used alcohol less than once per month, 23.9% had used alcohol two to three times per month, and roughly 4% were using alcohol once per week or more.

Ask a Professional

  • What is a drug rehab center for First Nations?

    These drug rehab centers focus on treating Indigenous and First Nations with culturally appropriate methods and counseling geared to the issues they struggle with while addicted to drugs or alcohol. The counseling and treatment methodologies are specific.

  • What type of treatment methodologies are offered to First Nations?

    Much of the same as any other drug rehab program, besides treatment methodologies being culturally specific. These programs may offer 12-step facilitation and behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and individual or group counseling.

  • What types of substance use treatment facilities are available for First Nations?

    Depending on the province, First Nations individuals can find detox programs, outpatient centers, residential drug rehab, group meetings, and aftercare support options. Every province is different, and local First Nations communities operate most programs with funding received from the federal government.

  • Want to know more?

    The questions from DrugRehab.ca’s “Ask a Professional” are answered by Nickolaus Hayes. If you need further clarification on any of the questions above or have any other questions you can contact him directly at N.hayes@drugrehab.ca.




More Information

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.