CCSA has developed care pathways to guide treatment for prescription drug harms. These pathways help primary care providers offer better, more efficient support to those who might be experiencing prescription drug misuse, and can improve and ensure quality of care through the treatment system. They work hand-in-hand with
Considerations for Developing and Implementing Care Pathways, a resource that overviews care pathway goals and factors for success.
Available for youth and older adults, the pathways move from an awareness of harms to screening to evaluating a patient’s readiness to change, followed by assessment, treatment options, and relapse prevention and recovery. The pathways can be adapted to the context in which they are applied. CCSA would be pleased to support their adaptation and if you are interested in support, please contact us at
CCSA will include treatment for other substances in subsequent pathways.
Who should use these pathways?
So far, two pathways have been developed to outline the continuum of care for two distinct groups experiencing harms from psychoactive prescription drug use:
In each pathway, colour is used to indicate research findings (blue) and expert opinion (yellow). The latter derive from those working in primary care, psychiatry, psychology and more, as well as from those with lived experience. Gaps in knowledge are also identified (pink).
The pathways have been developed in two formats. The online version provides one continuous pathway for scrolling on a tablet or computer screen. The print version breaks the pathway into discrete stages so that it can be printed on regular paper.
Why develop a pathway for youth?
Youth in Canada have higher rates of psychoactive prescription drug abuse than the general adult population. Young people are also more likely than adults to experience harm from the use of psychoactive prescription drugs, as their brains are undergoing rapid and extensive development. Such harms include dependence, addiction, illness requiring hospitalization, contraction of infectious disease, overdose and death. As well, earlier age of onset of substance use is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including increased risk of later drug dependence, poly-drug use and possible use of riskier drugs, all of which speaks to the need for effective treatment across a continuum of care for youth.
Why develop a pathway for older adults?
Older adults have higher rates of psychoactive prescription drug use (e.g., opioids, sedative-hypnotics) compared to the general population, which elevates their risk of experiencing related harms, including misuse, addiction, falls, cognitive impairment and medication interactions. There is an increasing need for evidence-based treatment for older adults to enhance the quality of care across the treatment continuum.