Treatment options - Episode 2 of Addicted Australia
Trigger Warning: Some people in recovery may find watching some parts of Addicted Australia triggering, particularly in relation to alcohol and drug use. You may want to seek support while watching if this is the case.
In this episode we learn more about the participants and their families, gaining further insight into what it’s like to receive addiction treatment and support.
Drinking, other drug use and gambling in Australian culture
“My parents encouraged me to start drinking when I was 13” — Dawn, 62, addicted to alcohol.
Dawn’s experience of drinking with her family and with work colleagues is not uncommon in Australia. Many people perceive drinking to be harmless because it is legal, when for many people alcohol use can become problematic and harmful.
Understanding the impacts of alcohol and drug use and what you can do if you are experiencing harm can be very helpful as a first step in making a change. Taking a self-assessment might also help to determine the extent of the problem and provide suggestions about what to do next.
People want to stop, but it’s not that simple
“We don’t see anyone here who doesn’t want to reduce their drinking or drug use or gambling… they all want to quit. The problem is they haven’t been able to, they’ve struggled. They’ve got lots of advice, everyone’s told them to stop but it’s not that simple.” — Turning Point Executive Clinical Director.
As Dan explains, nearly all of the 10 people in the program have sought help before — but for one reason or another it just hasn’t worked for them. This is a common experience because getting addiction under control is tough and accessing treatment can be difficult if you aren’t sure where to turn.
Counselling Online is a central point for accessing treatment in Australia and is here to support people affected by alcohol and other drugs 24/7. You can chat to a counsellor, connect with peers and email a question anytime.
Addiction in secret
“I'm still in the grips of alcoholism and I value the group sessions because they’re almost the only people that I can tell. It is becoming quite draining, not being able to tell anybody that I know who is close to me and I think that's starting to affect me” — Heidi, 31, addicted to alcohol.
Many people share Heidi’s experience of trying to keep their addiction secret. Shame and stigma associated with addiction can be draining for people in recovery, as the secret itself can be a significant burden. Often, when people do tell their families, it’s still kept as a secret to the rest of the world. This can also take a huge toll on families, as it isolates them from their communities and support networks.
In this episode, we see some of the families attending a family peer support group run by Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) for the first time.
“It’s a really big step that you are taking and one that families are so reluctant to do, yet we know that families getting support can actually change the length and severity of the addiction.” Angela Ireland – Self Help Addiction Resource Centre
For every person suffering from addiction an average of five people close to them are also affected, with families typically providing essential care and support to their loved one. We understand that family and friends are a really important group that also need to have support. If you are looking for support check out our Helping others section of the website.
In this episode, we see several examples of high-pressure situations for the participants and their families, including Stephen’s birthday party and the festive period. For someone in recovery, occasions where there is high-pressure or additional exposure to their substance can be particularly difficult. Craig, a peer support worker featured in the show, has written a helpful blog about Christmas and why it’s difficult, plus what you can do to make it easier.
There is also a great blog ‘The Sober Christmas Survival Guide’ that you may like to refer to if you need some help getting through the holidays. Stephen’s family did many things to try and take the pressure off on his birthday — not having alcohol, having a morning gathering and keeping it to a small group of people.
We see the participants continue with counselling and support from their treatment team. We also see the peer support group continue. You can access similar peer support on our forum anytime. Some of the other treatments featured were:
For some addictions, there are medications that people can be prescribed to help withdrawal symptoms and/or reduce craving — this is called pharmacotherapy or substitution therapies. Many people know about methadone as a treatment for heroin, but, a barrier to this treatment is that people need to attend a specific pharmacy for dosing daily, or, multiple times per week. We see Ruben commencing long-acting injectable buprenorphine, a new treatment option requiring less dosing, which has the real possibility for making his life easier:
“So we see this medication as a real game changer for people who are addicted to heroin or any other opioids… it opens up the opportunity to not think about your addiction everyday and also to get on with your life and to do other things” Dr Shalini Arunogiri
However, we also see Ruben’s concerns about this, as it’s a challenge psychologically and emotionally to move away from something that is perceived to have made life for him more manageable for so long, even when it’s at a stage when it is doing harm.
To safely manage withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs, people can attend detox where they can be supervised and receive medical care. In this episode, we see Matthew preparing for and attending detox. Matt leaves looking well and clearly invigorated from the experience. Dr Armstrong reflects on the fact that he hopes it will be his only detox but he will never be turned away if he sought treatment again:
“It has been a pleasure looking after him. I don't want to see him again but if he does come back he will be more than welcome” Dr Ferghal Armstrong.
We hope you found episode two of Addicted Australia to be empowering and insightful. If you would like to help us change the conversation about addiction you can join the Rethink Addiction campaign here.
Remember if you or anyone you know is affected by addiction and need support, help is available: