The substance abuse problems that plague Alberta’s oil industry are resulting in lives lost and torn apart. Young to middle aged men come to Northern Alberta with the honest intentions of working hard and making a decent living. But upon arrival, they are sucked into a vortex of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental disorders run rampant due to the harsh, restrictive conditions and the absence of healthy recreational activities.
Drug traffic is very prevalent near the oil sands because of the incredible amount of money workers have to spend on it. Drug gangs and individual dealers have a booming market of their own in towns like Fort McMurray, Alberta, which is the closest city to the oil sands. The availability of drugs is limitless, with cocaine (the “wealthy man’s drug”) being the biggest cash crop for dealers. It is estimated that a majority of the mental disorders found amongst oil workers can be tied to drug use.
The substance that is most abused amongst oil workers is a legal one: alcohol. As alcohol sales in Alberta are gradually privatized, the availability of alcohol increases along with cases of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Sadly, this addiction is also the most under resourced one, with government funded rehabilitation services being heavily depleted and stretched beyong their means. Often, alcoholics will receive little more than a basic support group to help them with sobriety, when what they really need is inpatient rehabilitation.
Oil workers afflicted with addiction to drugs and alcohol should be receiving proper substance abuse treatment, even if they have to find it outside of Alberta. There are plenty of addiction rehabilitation programs in neighboring provinces that are eager to help the oil industry with its substance abuse problems. No paycheck is worth the destruction of the worker’s life. Addicts and families of addicts are encouraged to reach out for help before it is too late.