Addicted Australia - Episode 3
The Addicted Australia documentary series takes cameras into the lives of ten Australians and their families, to show real stories of addiction. Each of the ten participants have enrolled into a unique and bespoke treatment program, developed by Turning Point, to access holistic care and support, recover and get on with their lives.
Addiction and mental health
We know that mental health and addiction can be closely linked and in episode three we see how addiction affects the mental health and wellbeing of some of the participants. It is normal for people to feel a range of emotions during their recovery journey, including grief, self-doubt, fear, anger and failure and Heidi talked about her apprehension and distress as she prepares to go into detox – a difficult first step for most people.
“It’s tiring to wake up every single day and that’s what you think about,”
Celebrating the first step on the road to recovery
Research has shown that people wait almost 20 years before getting help for their addiction, and that most people affected by addiction don’t access treatment and support. Shame and stigma stop people asking for help for fear of judgement. This has to stop so that we can fully address addiction. The first step to recovery is asking for help and Australians need to feel comfortable doing that.
“It takes an enormous amount of bravery to accept that you have a problem that you’ve been struggling with for years and taking that first step to getting help should be celebrated.”
Professor Dan Lubman
Executive Clinical Director
What happens after detox?
What happens after detox depends on the individual, their preferences and healthcare needs. Every journey is different – there is no one roadmap. In the documentary series, Matt is able to return home and remain in a very positive space following his detox. For others like Heidi, a short stay at a residential unit helps stabilise her physical and mental health after detoxification and maintain the recent positive changes.
“My priority in rehab is myself, I have realised I have never put myself first, and this space has allowed me to do that,”
There is no single path to recovery
Managing addiction is not the same for everyone because treatment goals vary. For some it will be staying engaged with treatment, for others it may be maintaining complete sobriety, or reducing alcohol consumption. Regardless, people need to able to access support for the treatment goals they wish to achieve and be provided the opportunity to manage their addiction and improve their lives.
This is part of the reason that addiction is such a complex issue and why treatment pathways are not as straight forward as they are for other health conditions. The result is a fragmented care system that can be difficult for people seeking help to navigate. That is why we need to Rethink Addiction and why we ask that you sign our petition for change here.
Lapse and relapse
Episode three explored lapse and relapse – common part of recovery. During the peer support group, Oscar explained that people will often experience lapse and relapse during the Christmas and New Year period, when there is a lot going on and people are feeling added pressure. Lapse and relapse are not signs of weakness or failure, but they can be an opportunity to recognise individual triggers and implement strategies to better manage these in future. It’s crucial to understand that people who experience lapse and relapse can overcome these obstacles and are able to continue with their recovery as planned.
“It is not a surprise if there is a relapse or a slip up, or if someone ends up in a rough spot again, because that is just the nature of it,”
Peer Support Worker
Is addictive behaviour hereditary?
People do not choose to become addicted. There are many risk factors that contribute to someone developing an addiction, including biological, environmental, and life experiences. Like any other health condition, the more risk factors a person has, the higher the risk of developing a disease.
Biological factors include our genetic makeup, and as we see with Lucas, he has a long family history of gambling addiction.
"My mum was a big pokie gambler, but she denied it. Her dad was the same,"
The link between trauma and addiction
Trauma is a common underlying factor among people affected by addiction. In episode three we saw that Keegan’s substance use had been a way for him to cope with things that had happened in his past. Sometimes, for people with lived experience of trauma, there is a risk of them engaging in self-harm as a means of numbing their pain.
“It’s not heroin that I want treated, it’s my depression. It’s what’s behind the addiction,”
“One of the things that is most misunderstood about addiction is that it’s not just purely about the alcohol, drugs or gambling. What’s core to everyone we see is often a story of trauma or a story of mental health, and I think that’s something the broader community doesn’t understand,”
Professor Dan Lubman
Executive Clinical Director
Emergency healthcare and addiction
Episode three contained some of the most confronting scenes of the series to date with Sarah and Dawn both receiving emergency medical care. Sarah for a suspected overdose and Dawn for a heart condition. In both cases, their emergency medical care was able to be integrated with their addiction treatment. However, this is not the case for most Australians presenting in emergency with addiction issues. That is why we need to Rethink Addiction and connect the fragmented healthcare system so that others like Sarah and Dawn can benefit from wraparound care. You can help call for this change by signing our petition for change here.
The second last episode of Addicted Australia was an unfiltered look at the reality of addiction in Australia. As we go into the final episode next week, we urge you to join the campaign for change today by signing our petition, sharing your story of addiction to help end the stigma and calling on your friends and family to follow the campaign and do the same.
If you or anyone you know is affected by addiction or if you want further information, there are services available. Please visit our Get Support page.