Introducing ROAR CANADA

By: Aarya Tamrakar

ROAR CANADA. Sounds intense, doesn’t it? 

In many ways, it is. Primarily because ROAR CANADA (Reduction of Overdose and Relapse – Concurrent Attention to Neuropsychiatric Ailments and Drug Abuse) is the largest study of its kind yet, with a target sample size of 1500 participants!

It aims to study individuals with concurrent disorders, a population that often gets overlooked in research, due to the perceived risk of their multiple conditions leading to muddied study results. 

So, what is a concurrent disorder?

In the context of substance use research, “concurrent disorders” (also called “dual diagnoses”) mean that an individual has at least one substance use disorder and at least one other mental health disorder. These individuals are often excluded in research because the effects of one disorder can be difficult to isolate from the other.  Consequently, this population is severely understudied while at the same time facing debilitating challenges in their functioning. 

This is a significant problem; roughly 37% of people with an alcohol use disorder and 53% of people with other substance use disorders will have a concurrent mental health disorder at least once in their life.



With the ROAR CANADA study, we hope to better understand peoples’ experiences with integrated treatments for concurrent disorders and to evaluate existing practices at three facilities that offer multidisciplinary integrated treatment for concurrent disorders. We also plan to assess the risk factors predicting overdose and relapse after patients are discharged from treatment. The UBC BRAIN Lab has teamed up with Dr. Tonia Nicholls’ lab at UBC and Dr. James MacKillop’s lab at McMaster University to study this complex population. We will be compiling data from different sources to get a better understanding of the problems clients with concurrent disorders face. Our work is funded by Health Canada and is supported by the BC Provincial Health Service Authority. 

We will be working with the following treatment centres:

  1. The Burnaby Center for Mental Health and Addiction (British Columbia) – a facility that provides integrated treatment for adults with severe concurrent disorders 
  2. The Heartwood Centre for Women (British Columbia) – a residential facility for women who struggle with severe substance use and mental health challenges
  3. St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hospital (Ontario) – premier research and teaching hospital.

ROAR CANADA is a longitudinal study – one that assesses its participants over time. We will interview each participant when they first arrive at their treatment centre, shortly before discharge into the community, one-month post-discharge, and 6 months post-discharge. By interviewing them over time, we hope to gain a better understanding of their experiences as treatment progresses as well as their experiences once they have left the facilities at which they were being treated. 

We will then access the participants’ medical history and their experiences with the correctional system, then link this data to the information we collected from the earlier parts of our study to inform our understanding of participants’ experiences during and after treatment. All information will be handled confidentially; the safety of our participants and non-identifiability of their data is, and always will be our top priority.

Once data collection and analysis are complete, we will share our results with health authorities across Canada in the hope of developing effective treatment for individuals with substance use and concurrent disorders. We hope that the knowledge gained through the ROAR CANADA project will inform the set-up of new integrated care centres, thus creating meaningful and necessary changes in treatments for individuals with concurrent disorders. In other words, we aim to match the intensity of our study’s name with our commitment to improving the lives of individuals with concurrent disorders.

If you’re excited about this study and would like to learn more about our research, click here!