Hundreds of Calgarians attended a forum on Tuesday night about how to erase the stigma associated with addiction.
The forum at the University of Calgary was sponsored by Alberta's Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction.
“Addiction is an illness that consumes and destroys lives and yet far too many people are fighting the battle in secret due to fear and stigma,” the organization said in a release.
The forum included a panel discussion with experts and people who have experienced addiction.
Patti Fisher, who struggled with addiction and now works as a counsellor in Calgary, said she worries Alberta's oil patch is fuelling a new generation of addicts.
"They know they can make money if they go up north so they use and they drop out of school and they go up north and they continue to drink and use and we find that we're getting a lot of these young men at younger ages,” she said.
The event featured a keynote address by Joseph Skrajewski, a former addict who is now a program leaders at the Betty Ford Center in California
He told the conference he thinks Alberta is making serious inroads in treating addiction.
"Alberta's leading the way up here in Canada and I think they're really making a difference because they're taking a stance with regards to providing services for alcoholics and addicts," he said.
Glynnis Lieb, executive director of the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction, said having someone from the Betty Ford Center at the forum helped boost attendance.
“Everybody knows the name, it's got this kind of celebrity link to it and so I think that piques peoples’ interest. And if that's what gets people out to talk, fantastic."
Lieb says stigma, shame and blame are big barriers to people getting help, both in terms of how addicts view themselves and how the illness is dealt with by society.
“It impacts the experiences, it impacts the level of treatment and level of funding that services get, it’s pervasive through the field still,” she said.