Nunavik Inuit who go out on the land less prone to substance abuse, research suggests

But Nunavimmiut with more “social and community support” tended to report more binge drinking

Concern over the rising use of alcohol and cannabis, as revealed by the 2017 Inuit health survey — Qanuilirpitaa? — prompted Puvirnituq to declare a sober month in November. Here, residents take part in a parade to start the month. (Photo courtesy of L. Qalingo Aupalu)

By Jane George

The results of a 2017 Inuit health survey in Nunavik suggest on-the-land and community activities are linked to less alcohol and cannabis use.

Researchers surveyed around 1,300 Nunavik residents over the age of 16 through the project, which is called Qanuilirpitaa? or “How are we now?”

It’s the second survey, following one in 2004 titled Qanuipitaa? or “How are we?”

According to the data, more Nunavimmiut were binge drinking in 2017 than in 2004.

There is “no single cause” behind who uses or doesn’t use alcohol or drugs, said Laval University public health researcher Natalia Poliakova last week at the ArcticNet conference. She gave a presentation during a Dec. 10 session on health, well-being and the social determinants of health in the North.

She said the survey showed Nunavimmiut who had more social and community support were more likely to engage in binge drinking, but volunteering and activities such as going to church were linked to a decrease in the behaviour.

As for why this could be the case, the Qanuilirpitaa? section on substance use suggests “the finding that higher social support was associated with more frequent alcohol consumption and binge drinking in Nunavik could be explained by greater access to alcohol and more opportunities to drink among individuals with a larger social circle.”

The Qanuilirpitaa? survey found 63 per cent drink of Nunavimmiut drink once a month and of those, about three in four reported at least one episode of binge drinking — five drinks or more in one occasion — in the year preceding the survey.

In total, 29 per cent of Nunavimmiut reported binge drinking in 2017, compared to 18 per cent in 2004.

Weekly binge drinking has also become more common. This was the case among both sexes, residents of the Hudson coast and adults aged 21 to 54, the survey found.

Those who reported binge drinking were more likely to be employed, had at least some secondary school, an income more than $20,000 and lived in large communities.

One in three Nunavimmiut use cannabis daily

The survey found that the same percentage of Nunavimmiut use cannabis as alcohol: 63 per cent.

“More than half of the population of Nunavik uses cannabis, making it the most popular drug,” Poliakova said.

As well, about one-third of Nunavimmiut reported daily use of cannabis, with men being significantly more likely to report daily cannabis use than women.

A greater proportion of residents of the Hudson coast communities also said they used cannabis daily compared to those on the Ungava coast.

It’s more popular among youth. Men and women under 21 years old were more likely to report daily cannabis use, as were single people.

Individuals who had attended, but not completed, secondary school were more likely to report daily cannabis use when compared to those who had completed secondary school.

This was also the case of individuals with a lower income, the survey said.

Going out on the land was associated with a lower cannabis use among Nunavimmiut.

Lifetime use of solvents — glue, gasoline or propane — was reported also by about a third of Nunavimmiut.

At the same time, there are few resources for Nunavimmiut who want to overcome addictions.

The Isuarsivik Regional Treatment Centre in Kuujjuaq suspended its residential services for much of 2020, though a new, expanded recovery centre is set to open in 2023.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by The land on

    We have people in our bigger communities, the booze selling ones, who never ventured out on the land. Their parents and their grandparents barely went out due to alcohol and drugs. It’s not difficult to look around these villages and see kids growing up with no concept of camping, hunting , fishing etc. There are those who still go out a little bit , but only to get drunk, stoned, not to hunt and fish. Closer observation would allow you to see the ones who only go out if they got their booze with them. The accidents are still very high for intoxicated people on the land , whether it be boat or skidoo. Not much real traditional in many people who go out in the first place. So you’re right , the alcohol and drug users go out less, some never have been out, but there’s also the intoxicating ones that go out , just for that purpose.

    • Posted by Nunavik Inuk on

      Don t worry , the new rehab in kuujjuaq will solve that

      • Posted by Feeling sorry on

        Allow me the opportunity and the privilege to state that the new treatment Centre to be will do nothing for the state of affairs in Nunavik. I’m afraid it will even hurt more people. A new centre is like a new car or a new house, a new item. It’s like a church with the same sinners within. It could bring false hope and cause more misery and even people could died from having such false hope. I’m not being pessimistic as much as realistic. Look at the past of what’s been done for the population struggling with alcohol and drug issues. People have gone into that centre , into that program ! And more disturbed and messed up as they come out of it weeks later, only to fall back into old habits that gotten worst. It’s something to do with such programs itself. As most don’t have a good outcome, as by the world wide success and failure of these programs. But the isuarsivik centre has been contaminated with uneducated, prayers, religious materials and many many troubles that has kept the programs from even reaching its minimum success. Sure it’ll been a nice break for the ones going into the program , like a holiday away from troubles for a number of weeks, but it’s not going anywhere, if there’s not a major change made into getting people who are qualified to run the programs. As of now there are several councillors from the south , getting paid in this pandemic, doing what I don’t know for people, but there’s also emphasis of having Inuit run programs , and a little bit deeper into the qualifying aspect will show you that many are not qualified to work there. The board is made up of ex graduates of the program , who continue their issues , and from my experience, has spilled theses issues back into the centre where clients are picking up the vibes of negativity. I’m feeling so sorry for the people who will be affected.

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