Resources for Caregivers

The following resources were compiled with spouses, parents and family members in mind. This section provides information for those who are affected by someone else's substance use and are some of our favorite materials to refer to.

For Parents

Parenting can be less than a straightforward job. Especially when your kids are at the age when experimenting with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs may be happening. The following resources and links to resources are provided to give factual information with tools to help your kids make healthy decision and support them when changes are necessary. 

Parent Information Series
This 4 part series from Alberta Health Services is designed to provide information through the stages kids might go through from building healthy patterns to supporting them through recovery. Follow the link below to read about these topics.

Nurture It!
Create It!
Choose It!
  • How can I help my child if my partner is addicted?
  • Helping your teen work through anger
  • The truth about popular drugs
  • How do I know if my teen is using drugs?
  • How do I talk to my teenager about drugs?
  • Raves and Club drugs: How do I protect my kids?
Get It Back
  • Helping teens evaluate their drug use
  • How bad is my teen's drinking or drug use?
  • Does your teen's drug use leave you feeling like you're losing your sanity?
  • How to get through to your teen
  • Intervening when your teen is using drugs
  • Getting help for your son or daughter who is drinking, using other drugs or gambling
  • Supporting your son or daughter in recovery
Brain Development and Substance Use

The study of brain development has explored over the past decade. With new technology, significant new research has advanced our understanding of adolescent brain development and the effects of alcohol and other drug use on the developing brain. This emerging science and research is providing new insights about how teenagers make critical and life influencing decisions, including their decisions about drug use. Brain imaging studies suggest that the brain continues to develop through adolescence and into young adulthood (age 25 years). During adolescence, the parts of the brain that are responsible for expressing emotions and for seeking gratification tend to mature sooner than the regions of the brain that control impulses and that oversees careful decision making. This research suggests that maturing adolescent brain may also pose a particular risk toward drug abuse. As parents and those concerned about adolescents information about this research can help guide dialogue with young people.

Learn more through the following links:

Adolescent Development

In the last decade significant scientific discovery has provided us with insight into how the brain works, develops and adapts. The role that substances play in this picture has also began to become clearer. This science understands the adolescent brain as an organ still under development. This development is likely not complete until early adulthood. 90-95% of the brain is developed as puberty finishes and the remaining parts of the brain are not fully developed until the mid-20s. This brain still under development helps to explain the differences we see in adolescent behaviour such as regulating emotions, to weigh out risks and rewards and their attraction towards sensation-seeking behaviours. However, these behaviours are an adaptive process. Through experiencing these behaviours, adolescents are moving away from the dependence they required and thrived with as infants and children, toward independence and transitioning toward adulthood. These tendencies toward novelty and reward, peer-focused interaction and sensation-seeking all draw teens to new, unfamiliar people, experiences and opportunities. In a sense this creates inspiration for them to create their own identity and independence to eventually move out of the home and continue the journey towards maturity.

Circle of Courage

For Partners and Family Members

When someone in a family has an alcohol or other drug problem, everyone is affected. At first, as the problem develops, the family may not understand what is happening. The person with the problem may not see his or her use as a problem, or the person may not be completely open about what is going on.
As the problem becomes clearer, family members may have different ideas about how to deal with it. As individuals and as a unit, family members may struggle to balance their desire to help and protect the person with the need to let the person take responsibility for his or her behaviour. When faced with this situation, family members may:
  • feel guilt, shame
  • feel grief, depression
  • feel loss of control, anxiety               
  • feel anger and resentment      
  • experience denial.
If the problem worsens, family members may also begin to feel hopeless.
There may be:
  • vague, unclear communication
  • escalating conflict, breakdown of relationships
  • a gradual shift in roles and responsibilities
  • efforts to clean up after or otherwise rescue the person with the problem to protect him or her, or to hide the problem from others
  • nagging, threatening
  • counting drinks or making other attempts to check how much the person is using.
Finally, family members may attempt to control the person and his or her use, or they may increase their own use of alcohol or other drugs. Family members may also begin to neglect themselves emotionally, physically or socially.
How families can help

Families can play a strong role in recovery. With support from families, people are more likely to stay in treatment and have a successful outcome. Providing that support, however, is only possible if family members take care of their own needs first.

Partners and family members need to look after their own physical and mental health. To do this, you can do the following:
  1. Set limits. Decide what things you will or will not do, and let your relative or partner know. This sends a message to that person to take control of his or her own behaviour. Family members sometimes “rescue” by covering up or not allowing the relative or partner to experience the consequences of his or her use. This can reduce motivation for change or even make it easier for the person to keep using.
  2. Make time for yourself. Keep up your interests outside the family and apart from your relative or partner.
  3. Consider seeking support for yourself, even if your relative or partner is not in treatment. Understanding the problem and the impact it has on you will help you cope. Consider either entering therapy for yourself or joining a self-help or family support program. Local community addiction treatment centres may offer or be aware of these programs.
  4. Take a look at your own substance use. Might your substance use be a cause for concern? Is your drinking or other drug use a “trigger” for the problem use of someone else in your life?
  5. Acknowledge and accept that sometimes you will have angry or negative feelings about the situation. Having conflicting emotions is normal. Knowing this can help you to control these emotions, so you can support your relative or partner through recovery. Try not to feel guilty about your feelings.
  6. Protect yourself physically, emotionally and financially, as necessary. If children are involved, keep them safe.
  7. Keep up your own support network. Avoid isolating yourself. Keep in touch with friends and family outside the home who can offer support.
  8. Don’t allow the problem to take over family life. As much as possible, keep stress low and family life normal. Continue to do family activities such as celebrating birthdays and holidays.
  9. Having a relative or partner with a substance use problem can also strain the relationships of family members who are not using. Different family members may see the problem differently and interact differently with the person with the problem. Family counselling can help to promote family unity, and enable family members to support each other and the person with a substance use problem.
Getting treatment for your relative or partner

It may be hard to get your relative or partner to accept help. Even if the person does realize his or her use is a problem, he or she may not see treatment as useful. The decision to seek help has to come from the person who needs it. There are, however, some ways that family members can encourage a relative or partner. Generally, a concerned and supportive approach is most effective.

Tips for helping your relative or partner

  1. Learn as much as you can about the causes, signs and symptoms of problem substance use. This will help you to understand and support your relative or partner in recovery.
  2. Communicate positively, directly and clearly. State what you want to happen, rather than criticizing your relative or partner for past behaviours. Avoiding personal criticism can help your relative or partner feel accepted while he or she is making difficult changes.
  3. Encourage your relative or partner to follow the treatment plan. Encourage the person to attend treatment sessions regularly and to use the support from his or her counsellor or group. Support the person’s efforts to avoid things that may trigger substance use.
  4. Ask your partner or relative how you can be supportive and create a safer environment (e.g., would the person prefer it if alcohol were removed from the home?).
  5. As your relative or partner recovers, encourage him or her to begin to take back some of the responsibilities and connections that might have been disrupted. Getting back the healthier parts of his or her life, such as family, friends, work and hobbies, can help to maintain changes and to rebuild more balanced relationships with family members.
  6. Recognize that recovery may not be completely smooth. Relapse is often a part of recovery. Have realistic expectations and encourage realistic goals. Prepare a plan for your response to relapse, if it should occur. A relapse can escalate to a return to problem use. If this occurs, decide on your actions and limits, and communicate these clearly to your relative or partner.
  7. Give hope. Remind the person that no matter how hard the struggle, recovery is possible.
Relationship with a partner

A substance use problem can profoundly affect an intimate relationship. Feelings of resentment, anger and loss of trust can lead to distance and hostility in the relationship. The non-using partner may feel betrayed due to past actions. He or she might also have taken on more responsibilities than seem fair. Over time, a partner may begin to feel more and more in a parental role, eroding the couple’s bond. If the partner with the substance use problem does reduce or stop use, it will still take time, patience and a great deal of effort to rebuild what might have been lost. The partner might have been using substances to deal with stress and need to learn new skills to deal with life pressures.

If your partner is willing, meet with his or her counsellor. A meeting can help you to better understand treatment and to learn ways to be supportive and encourage progress.
Support groups for family members can also help. Later on, as your partner enters the action or maintenance stage, consider couple therapy with a marital or couple therapist who understands addiction. Such therapy can help improve communication and strengthen the relationship.


Recent Posts

  • Addictions Treatment - Different options

    Posted on: 14-Feb-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Feb-2020 Addictions Treatment - Different options

    This is the second of two articles regarding information about treatment -- what it is and what it isn't' and the different formats that describe treatment. The series is written by East Kootenay Addiction Services' Executive Director, Dean Nicholson. The article below does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of East Kootenay Addiction Services.

    As a new story seems to come out daily about the fentanyl problem and what’s being done to address it, it would be understandable if many people were confused about what services and programs are available to assist people with substance use problems.  This article will outline some of the major components and approaches to substance use treatment and how they relate to the current fentanyl problem. 

    Firstly, it must be said that not everyone who is experiencing a problem with substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or fentanyl is necessarily ‘addicted’ in the strict clinical term.  Substance use falls along a continuum from ‘no-use’ through ‘social use’ through ‘problematic use’, and finally ‘dependent or addicted use’.  The type of services that could help will depend on where a person’s use falls on the continuum and what changes they want to make.

    Secondly, substance use problems are no longer viewed as a ‘stand-alone’ issue.  It is generally recognized that most people who struggle with substance use problems also have other concerns, such as depression or anxiety, housing and financial problems, relationship problems etc.  It is not enough to deal with the substance use; to make lasting change people often need support in a number of areas of their lives.

    With this being said, what are the different components of substance use treatment?  At East Kootenay Addictions Services (EKASS) we believe that treatment starts as soon as someone contacts us.  Reaching out for help means treatment has begun.    After that there are various services that a person could become involved with depending on their situation.

    Withdrawal Management:  Often referred to as ‘detox’ or a ‘dry out center’.  Withdrawal management assists people in the initial physical withdrawal that they may experience as they stop using substances.  This could take place at home with outside support, in a withdrawal management center such as Ponderosa House in Cranbrook, or at a local hospital when other medical complications might be present.  People are usually only in a withdrawal program for 5-10 days, depending on the substance, although some substances may take longer to taper off of.  There is no cost for approved withdrawal management services.

    Outpatient Counselling:  Outpatient counselling is often the first type of treatment that people access.  People are seen by a trained substance use counsellor who assists them in identifying the problems they are having, developing goals, implementing strategies and connecting them with other services that may be helpful.  At EKASS we see people at our offices, but can also meet people at other locations if that is easier.  There are no costs for people to access outpatient counselling at provincially funded mental health and substance use offices.

    Residential Treatment Programs:  This is what most people think of as ‘treatment’ although in reality it is just one type of service.  Residential Programs can run from 6 weeks up to 3 months or more.  The programs offer group counselling in a secure live-in environment.   In B.C. some programs have been accredited and some have not.  Being accredited means that the program has been thoroughly reviewed by an outside evaluator and that the treatment program, the facilities, the staff and the policies all meet an accepted level.  All residential treatment programs have a cost for the user.  If a residential program is run by an accredited not-for-profit society and has an agreement with the Ministry of Health, then a number of beds will be subsidized as $40.00 per day beds.  People usually access these beds through a referral from an substance use counsellor. For people on Income Assistance the program costs are usually covered.   Non-subsidized beds in not-for-profit programs typically run around $120.00 per day.  People can access these beds without a referral from a substance use counsellor.  Private for-profit residential programs can cost upwards of $15,000 per month.  The philosophy of treatment at residential programs generally falls into one of two approaches:  12 Step Programs and Holistic Programs.  The main difference between these approaches is the emphasis on the 12 Step or Minnesota Model of recovery.  Both types of programs use group counselling as a primary counselling strategy. Aboriginal residential programs will usually include aboriginal healing practices as well.  Helping people find the program that is the best match for them is part of what an substance use counsellor does when working with a client.  Residential programs have waitlists, but these can vary from a few days to a number of months, depending on the program.

    Harm Reduction Programming:  In one sense all substance use programming aims to reduce the harms associated with using.  In a more specific sense though, in relation to the fentanyl crisis this can refer to two types of programming:  Opioid Replacement Programs and the Take Home Naloxone Program. 

    Opioid Replacement Programs: are programs that help someone get off of opioids like heroin, morphine, fentanyl etc, by replacing them with another opioid, such as Methadone or Suboxone.  The purpose of going on Methadone or Suboxone is to prevent the person from going into withdrawal.  Avoiding the pain and sickness associated with withdrawal from opioids is usually the primary reason people keep using.  By having a regular dose of Methadone or Suboxone a person does not go into withdrawal and does not have to engage in the kinds of behaviours that will allow them to keep using.  People are able to stabilize their lives and begin to work on changing other problem areas.  When they are on the proper dose, people do not experience a ‘high’ from Methadone or Suboxone.  There is a lot of monitoring that goes with the program.  In the early stages people often have to get their medication each morning at a pharmacy.  They will have meetings with the prescribing physician every two to four weeks, and they will be required to provide urine samples to show that they are not misusing other opioids.  Despite some of the restrictions these requirements place on a person, research shows that people on an Opioid Replacement Program are less likely to relapse and go back to using.  This means they are at less risk of overdose than people who try to quit opioids on their own.   Furthermore, when people are maintained on an Opioid Replacement Program they are able to create stability in their lives and began working on other concerns to further improve their well-being.   Although any doctor can prescribe Suboxone after a short on-line course, one of the biggest barriers for people getting on to an Opioid Replacement Program is the lack of prescribing doctors.  At EKASS we operate a weekly Telehealth Clinic in which our clients have access to a prescribing doctor in Kamloops. 

    Take Home Naloxone Program:  The Take Home Naloxone Program was developed in large part in response to the fentanyl crisis.  Naloxone or Narcan is a drug that when taken helps to reverse an opioid overdose.  Naloxone has been around for decades and has been used by paramedics and hospital emergency departments.  In B.C. the Take Home Naloxone Program has sought to get Naloxone kits into the hands of people at risk for opioid overdose.  Kits are available at a wide range of locations and eligible people can receive a free kit after taking part in a short training program.  At EKASS we have been dispensing kits for nearly two years, and there are many other locations in the East Kootenay where people can receive free kits.


    This article has described some of the common components of addictions treatment in British Columbia.  For more information about services offered through EKASS please visit our website at or call us at 1-800-489-4344.

  • Addictions Treatment – What it is, and what it isn’t

    Posted on: 03-Feb-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 03-Feb-2020 Addictions Treatment – What it is, and what it isn’t

    This is the first of two articles regarding information about treatment -- what it is and what it isn't' and the different formats that describe treatment. The series is written by East Kootenay Addiction Services' Executive Director, Dean Nicholson. The article below does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of East Kootenay Addiction Services. 

    Over the past number of months there has been a lot of media focus on the fentanyl crisis in B.C.  Many of the stories have talked about the lack of treatment, or the wait for treatment, often with the subtext that if people could have gotten treatment than the problem would have been solved.  But what exactly is ‘addictions treatment’ and how does it work?

    We typically think of ‘treatment’ as some kind of intervention that brings about a ‘cure’ or an end to the problems we’ve been having.  Antibiotics are a good example.  We are sick with an infection, we do a treatment of antibiotics which kills the bacteria, and in a few weeks we are back to our normal health.  Dealing with addiction problems is very different.   Addictions treatment does not provide a ‘cure’, nor does the problem go away.  ‘Treatment Centers’ are programs where individuals typically stay for 2-3 months.  These programs provide structure, opportunity for group and individual counselling and support, education, safety, regular food and social connection.  But despite what certain programs might say, they cannot provide a ‘cure’ to addiction.  Any program that promises to cure someone of their addiction is selling a bill of goods.

    Why isn’t there a cure for addiction or substance abuse?  Addiction and substance abuse are basically brain disorders.  People use substances for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because they like the way substances make them feel, at least in the beginning.  Our brain is designed to turn behaviours that we do repeatedly into habits.   The thinking part of our brain doesn’t have to be involved as much, and a deeper part of our brain controls the behaviour.  Think of driving a car – when we first learned we had to pay attention to every single thing we had to do – braking, accelerating, signaling etc.  After a few months we could do most of that without actually thinking about it.  Much of driving had become habitual.  The same thing happens when we use substances.  If we use a substance enough times our brain develops a habit for using, or for using to feel a certain way.   We don’t have to think about how to use, a deeper part of the brain makes it happen.   If we use certain substances long enough, the brain actually goes through physical changes, so that the substance use is regarded as essential to feel a certain way.  As a person progresses from social use to habitual use to addicted use, the amount of choice and control that the person has over using decreases.  When a person has developed an addiction, there is a part of their brain that will control their behaviour and compel them use the substance even when they know it is harming them or that it could kill them. 

    The good news is that the brain is remarkably able to rewire itself.  New habits can be learned to replace old harmful habits.  But just as it takes time to develop a habit or an addiction, so too does it take to develop new ways of behaving.  The reality of addiction is that there is no simple way to change a brain.  Even when people want to stop using recovery is a long-term process, often with many setbacks, that requires a lot of effort.  Factor in that many people are ambivalent about changing or stopping their use, and the process becomes even more difficult.  Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, but it does mean that there is no simple ‘cure’, no ‘treatment’ that can be imposed on someone that will make their brain automatically change. 

    As a culture we have come to believe that there should be quick fixes.  We don’t like to be uncomfortable or to suffer.  We have a society built around instant gratification.  This expectation is part of what fuels people getting in to trouble with substances, and then it becomes part of what fuels people having unrealistic expectations about recovery.  Does this mean there is no hope?  Absolutely not.  Every day at East Kootenay Addiction Services we see people who are learning to reorganize their lives, develop new skills and move away from addiction towards happy and fulfilling lives.  And what makes those people successful?  They have come to recognize that there isn’t a quick fix.  Life requires ongoing effort and focus, whether that is recovering from an addiction, having a family, or building a career.  Accepting that recovery is a process and not a cure has allowed those people to work realistically and productively towards better lives.

  • Ready for the Holiday Season
  • Ready for the Holiday Season

    Posted on: 14-Dec-2019

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Dec-2019 Ready for the Holiday Season

    This is the third article in a series on Mindfulness written by Maureen Smith. Maureen is a Substance Use Counsellor at East Kootenay Addiction Services who has an interest in Mindfulness and finding creative ways to incorporate it into her counselling practice. To read more about Mindfulness and how it relates to Substance Use visit our page about Mindfulness in the Resources/Adult section of our website. The article below does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of East Kootenay Addiction Services.

    If you are feeling uncertain about the upcoming holiday season, that is OK.  Realize that recognizing you are feeling indicates you are self-aware.  That is fantastic!  Here are some ideas to help you navigate through the next month whether you are up-to-your-eyeballs-busy or feel you have way too much time on your hands.  You don’t have to be a Grinch, a Santa or a saint. Just begin to be more self-aware of what is happening as it is happening.  Starting today, why not spend at least part of this season being with yourself in ways that renew and strengthen your health.  So many of the problems we experience arise because we are ‘somewhere else’ in our mind, rather than in the moment.  Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of presence.

    Use the count down to the end of the year as a way to honour and celebrate what you have.  Notice your thoughts right now as you read these words.  Do you tend to think of the negative or the positive?  Congratulations!  You just gave yourself the gift of being more self-aware.  There are many ways to celebrate what you have.  Use my ideas or come up with some of your own.  There are many suggestions on how to be more in the moment day to day.  You might find ideas on-line or in the library. They don’t have to cost money.  Instead of shopping why not try investing in your relationships by spending time and focused energy?   You might choose to write in a gratitude journal.  Or what if you chose to eat one of those famous Christmas oranges slowly and mindfully?  

    Set a timer and give yourself 10 – 20 minutes.  You will have to slow right down. Start by looking at the orange (you can use any piece of food), even before you pick it up.  Then hold it and feel its bumps or smoothness, its coolness or warmth.  Look at how the light and shadow play across its surface.  Really look at it.   Marvel at it being here in your hand. Imagine the factors and people that contributed to this marvelous fruit and you coming together.  So many circumstances supported this event: the fertile soil on planet earth, sunlight from 150 million kilometers away, rain from the atmosphere, someone planted a tree and cared for it through the years.  First cultivated in China in 2500 BC, we are benefitting from centuries of human labour and knowledge. Eating them creates energy and life in our bodies through the amazing processes of ingestion, digestion and elimination.  You may have eaten other oranges, but never this one.  This one sitting in your hand right now is unique unto itself.  There are millions of oranges in the world very similar to this one.  You, in this moment with this particular fruit on this day, in this year are completely distinct.  It is a unique and precious circumstance.    

    I invite you to relish in all it means to be alive!  Embrace the gift of stopping what you are doing and giving yourself some space from everything else.   For a few minutes every day completely BE with the process of appreciating, examining, smelling, feeling, listening and tasting.

    A million miracles are held within the fruit, within you and within the process that brought you together.  Ahhhhh.  Slowing down and appreciating the wondrous nature of life helps us to live in joy and gratitude.  


Upcoming Events

  • Mindfulness Series
    Event Date: 25-Feb-2020
  • Mindfulness Series

    Event Date: 25-Feb-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Feb-2020 Mindfulness Series

    Tuesday, February 25 is the first session in a four-part series on Mindfulness. Sessions run until March 17 from 9 -11 am each Tuesday at the EKASS office, #202, 1617 Baker Street in Cranbrook.

  • Teen Empowerment and Mastery Program
    Event Date: 4-May-2020
  • Teen Empowerment and Mastery Program

    Event Date: 4-May-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Feb-2020 Teen Empowerment and Mastery Program

    Communities throughout the East Kootenay region will be holding the Teen Empowerment and Mastery (TEAM) Program in May and June of 2020. Click here to learn more about TEAM. If you are a young person interested in attending TEAM contact us at 1-877-489-4344 for more information.

  • International Overdose Awareness Day
    Event Date: 31-Aug-2020
  • International Overdose Awareness Day

    Event Date: 31-Aug-2020

    Posted by Theresa Bartraw | on 28-Jul-2017 International Overdose Awareness Day

    International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is a global event held on August 31st each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

    Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. Wear Silver to show your support.