“We don’t want him worrying about how he will pay to save his life”: Using medical crowdfunding to explore lived experiences with addiction services in Canada [2019]

Background: The opiate crisis in Canada, among other causes, has led to increased demand and wait times for addiction-related services. One response to this situation has been for Canadians to seek crowdfunding support for services outside of the public system. However, little is known about how large this practice is, what addiction-related services Canadians seek, and what the implications of this practice are.

Methods: We searched the crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and YouCaring using keywords related to addiction. This search identified 129 crowdfunding campaigns by Canadian residents seeking addiction-related services. The authors recorded information from the campaigns and conducted a thematic analysis of their narrative content.

Results: These campaigns requested $12,722,527 and were pledged $204,848 (1.6%). Thematic analysis revealed four core elements discussed in the pursuit of addiction-related crowdfunding: 1) affording treatment, including at private and/or perceived higher quality facilities; 2) surviving treatment by seeking living expenses during and before treatment; 3) life after treatment by addressing needs following receiving treatment for addiction; and 4) publicizing treatment where recipients often struggled with the need to reveal personal details as part of their campaigns.

Conclusion: These findings confirm discussion in the academic and policy literature on Canadians seeking addiction-related services that wait times for public services are a significant issue for many. However, these findings also show that the costs of living expenses before and during treatment, as well as restarting lives following treatment, also create struggles for Canadians. These findings confirm and expand concerns in the literature on medical crowdfunding, where this practice is thought to raise issues around the equitable distribution of resources and the loss of personal privacy. While crowdfunding for addictionrelated services has helped some Canadians, the money raised was vastly less than that requested, came at a cost to personal privacy, and raises equity issues.

Varsha Palad, Jeremy Snyder
International Journal of Drug Policy, Volume 65, March 2019