8 Most Common Addictions in Canada

Addiction damages human connection - Centres for Health and Healing

Canada is often praised for its strong government policies and the kindness of its natives. But like any part of the world, it has struggles, too.

Millions of Canadians deal with addiction in some form each year, including substance abuse and non-substance addictions.

While every society and community may interpret addictions differently, we recognise that there are clear boundaries and limits when it comes to classifying problematic use.

What many people do not often realise is that a person can have addictive behaviour without suffering from a chemical dependency.

Addiction can be purely psychological, but there are always neurological underpinnings that fuel the continuation of the disorder. 

To help you or a loved one move toward healing, education is always the first step toward change. 

Below are the 8 most common addictions in Canada, including drugs and alcohol, social media, and video gaming.

1. Coffee

CFHH Addictions Canada Coffee 2

Approximately two-thirds of Canadians enjoy at least one cup of coffee a day, but the average drinker has 3.2 daily (Coffee Business Intelligence, 2018).

Caffeine addiction can be more subtle than others, and it does not tend to come with the same negative health effects or mental health risks as other substances. 

However, coffee addiction can be a real problem in someone’s life. Afternoon “crashes” that leave them irritable and exhausted only encourage them to drink more coffee as a solution.

Too much caffeine can lead to an irregular heartbeat, increased anxiety, and even the risk of a heart attack.

Some people may also become over-reliant on coffee or caffeinated beverages to cope with insomnia or being overworked. This can mask their real issues and prevent them from addressing the underlying causes they need to improve their well-being.

Health Canada recommends adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is approximately three 8-ounce cups.

2. Tobacco/Nicotine

CFHH Addictions Canada Nicotine

Smoking has become less popular in North America over the last two decades, but recently, it has seen a resurgence. 

Thanks to vaping, e-cigarettes, and other modern smoking trends, more Canadians are beginning to regularly consume tobacco and nicotine.

In 2019, the rate of smoking in Canada rose by 10% — the fastest in decades. While that is a great thing, studies show that the smoking industry in Canada is expected to pull in $7.2 billion in 2022 and increase by 0.6%. This will leave 9.6% of the Canadian population actively smoking (IBS World, 2022). 

Smoking not only poses serious physical health risks, but it can also be an unhealthy coping mechanism for mental health issues.

Nicotine is an addictive substance, which makes quitting smoking difficult even when someone genuinely wants to stop. 

Seeking professional help is a beneficial step in removing tobacco and nicotine from someone’s life.

3. Social Media

CFHH Addictions Canada Social Media

Every day, around 4.62 billion people log on to some social media platform.

With the average person spending over 2 hours a day on their preferred networks, social media use is steadily rising as more people work from home and younger people join online communities.

While social media has many positive uses, it can easily become destructive. Numerous studies have linked social media to increased depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Social media addiction can lead people to feel trapped in a vicious cycle of attention-seeking. Others may rely heavily on social media to fulfill unmet needs in real life, such as meaningful connection, social support, and a sense of belonging. 

If self-imposed limits don’t work, seeking professional help for social media addiction can lead to lasting change. 

Therapy can help someone recognise the role social media plays in their lives and, in a larger sense, their identity. 

For some, social media may be an easy way to avoid confronting things they are insecure about in real life. By relying on an online persona, they do not have to do the real emotional work necessary for personal fulfilment. 

While using social media excessively can make people feel worse about their lives, many still struggle to stop.

There is no shame in having a problem. In fact, social media apps were designed to be addictive in the first place.

What matters most is that people recognise the need for intervention and reach out for help when they need it.

4. Video Games

CFHH Addictions Canada VideoGames

Video game addiction is highly prevalent in North America. Around 94% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 play, and as many as 3 million Canadian gamers are at risk of developing problematic use. 

Between 472,000 and 720,000 gamers in Canada are estimated to have an addiction to their favourite form of entertainment.

Video games provide a level of mental stimulation and personal involvement that other types of media do not. As a result, many people get overly invested in living out virtual lives rather than attending to their own.

Getting help for video game addiction can also lead to treatment for mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety.

All of these are treatable, and therapy can guide someone toward more emotional freedom and greater balance in their lives.

5. Sex

CFHH Addictions Canada Sex

Sex is far more than physical activity for someone with an addiction. In reality, sex addiction serves as a way to escape from and validate deeper emotional needs. 

Sex addictions can alleviate anxiety, temporarily boost self-confidence, and bring a false sense of closeness that someone craves in their life.

Dependencies on sex often stem from a deeper need for validation and a lack of self-worth. People who repeatedly engage in empty, meaningless sex with different partners are often looking for something in others that they need from themselves. 

Just like pornography addiction, sex addiction can be destructive to both the individual and any relationships they have.

It makes maintaining long-term romantic connections difficult, and ultimately deprives someone of a rewarding emotional relationship.

6. The Internet

CFHH Addictions Canada Internet

The internet itself can be just as addictive as social media. People often develop dependencies on the internet when they are struggling with other mental health issues, namely anxiety and depression.

The internet may often feel inescapable, especially among younger people who have grown up surrounded by technology.

Although heavy internet use is associated with feelings of emptiness and depression, many people still find it difficult to quit. 

Some people may feel extremely anxious when they have to be away from their mobile phones; they find themselves constantly scrolling, tapping, and looking things up without any real purpose.

Although the internet is a vital part of modern society, it cannot replace real human connections, hobbies, and purpose in the real world. 

Detachment from internet addiction starts by identifying underlying beliefs and needs that excessive phone or computer fulfills. 

It can take time for someone to adjust their internet usage, especially if they rely on it for work or social connection. However, setting boundaries and establishing healthier routines can lead to lasting change. 

7. Work

CFHH Addictions Canada Work

Workaholism is a real problem, even if it may not be a diagnosable mental health disorder. People who are addicted to their jobs tend to struggle with chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism.

Heavy workloads can force people to choose their jobs over their personal lives. In some cases, this may be a deliberate or unconscious intention to avoid building relationships and establishing a meaningful existence outside of the workplace. 

Overworking is often highly praised, and people will always tell someone that a hard work ethic is a virtue.

Unfortunately, failure to recognize a person’s constant need to strive and achieve can keep them trapped in an unhealthy cycle for years. 

Work is linked closely to a person’s identity and self-worth. Those who have an achievement-based mindset will often see themselves as a success or failure depending on how well they perform. 

This can lead them to constantly push themselves as hard as they can for fear of “failing.” 

Work-life balance helps people find fulfillment in other aspects of life. But if a person secretly struggles with shame, low self-worth, or perfectionism, leaving the work arena to focus on other goals can feel impossible. 

Therapy can help people learn to recognise the role work has in their life, as well as help them begin to see new opportunities for fulfillment and satisfaction outside of professional achievement.

8. Alcohol

CFHH Addictions Canada Alcohol

Alcohol use rose steadily in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic with 25% of adults 35-54 drinking more frequently. 

Research shows that up to 21% of Canadian drinkers exceed the low-risk drinking guidelines. This puts people at an elevated risk of alcohol misuse, which can slowly pave the way for more serious addiction.

Alcohol is a leading cause of over 200 diseases and injuries and accounts for 5.3% of all deaths annually. 

Having a dependent relationship with alcohol can worsen depression, and increase reckless behaviour, impulsivity, and relationship conflict. 

People who drink to mask their deeper emotional problems tend to suffer for longer. Rather than process and resolve unhelpful or painful feelings, people suppress them and use alcohol as a temporary escape.

The effects of alcohol addiction also negatively affect loved ones. Family members, children with addicted parents, and partners all suffer the effects of a person’s drinking problem. 

Although it can be difficult to battle, alcohol addiction is treatable at every level. Seeking the appropriate type of professional support can prevent physical health risks and reduce withdrawal symptoms while a person works toward sobriety.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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