why is it time for australia to rethink addiction


The year 2020 has challenged us all. The bushfires and then the pandemic forced us to think about what is important, how we respond to crises as a community and the ways we connect and support each other.

We are still grappling with the long-term effects on mental health of this time of fear, insecurity and social disconnection.

At the start of the pandemic, we saw a increased alcohol sales and reported alcohol consumption. Almost a third of people who bought more alcohol expressed concerns about their own alcohol consumption or that of a member of their household.

People often turn to alcohol or other drugs to cope with stress, financial pressures, loss and trauma. The increase in alcohol consumption is systematically reported after natural disasters, acts of terrorism and economic crises.

So it’s time to think about our perceptions of addiction, who is affected and how we react.

What is addiction?

Simply put, addiction is the inability to stop using a drug or quitting an activity, even if doing so causes physical or psychological damage.

A common misconception is that this is the result of a lack of willpower or poor self-control. But in reality, addiction is a complex health disorder with a range of biological, developmental and environmental risk factors, including trauma, social isolation or exclusion, and genetics.

About one in four Australians will develop a alcohol, drugs Where gambling disorder during their life, and around one in 20 will develop an addiction, the most severe form of the disorder.

Despite common stereotypes, addiction does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages and from all walks of life.

It often takes a long time for people with drug addiction to seek treatment.

Stigma is crippling

Drug addiction remains one of the most stigmatized of all health problems at the World level. We give compassion to people with health problems like cancer, heart disease or diabetes, but society does not offer the same concern to someone with drug addiction.

Too often we blame the individual, believing that the addiction is their fault. But addiction is an unfortunate consequence of something much more complex.

Read more: Detoxification: What Works and What to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Private Treatment Provider

As a result of the feeling of shame and judgment, it can often catch people many years ask for help. This is compounded by multiple barriers to treatment (such as geography, cost, wait times, and privacy concerns).

Yet our refusal to have an honest conversation about how we respond to the harms associated with tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling are costing the Australian community dearly, exceeding A $ 175 billion per year.

A broken system

Across Australia, the management of addictions remains fragmented, with limited possibilities for continuing care. There are no coherent national planning, despite the evidence that for for every $ 1 invested in the treatment, the company earns $ 7.

The situation is exacerbated by a health worker who has had limited opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate training in drug addiction, which means emergency and primary care systems often find it difficult to answer.

This is in stark contrast to other chronic health issues, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, for which there are clear education pathways, clinical guidelines, and national models of care.

A man holds a small packet of white powder in one hand and his phone in the other.
Drug addiction continues to be stigmatized.

Thus, many people with drug addiction and their families have to follow their own path to treatment.

A tragic consequence of this fragmented and failing system is that we continue to see preventable deaths associated with different types of dependencies.

Read more: How a Simple Brain Training Program Could Help You Avoid Alcohol

Fight stigma

The recent SBS documentary series Australia addicted follows ten brave Australians and their families as they seek professional help with their drug addiction over a six-month period. This is an important step in challenging the prevailing myths and stereotypes about drug addiction.

The series opens the door to the realities of substance abuse, giving viewers a better understanding of the disorder, the devastating effect it has on individuals and families, and what effective treatment and recovery looks like when people have. access to a holistic model of care.

The hope is that this series will help change community perceptions of the reality of addiction, raise expectations about what treatment should look like, and change the narrative so that recovery is not just about a possibility, but as with other health problems, is a realistic goal.


Addicted Australia, which aired recently on SBS, is now available on SBS On Demand.

A call to action

Treating drug addiction like any other health disorder must begin with vigorous public policy reform and intervention to ensure that the health system is supported and adequately resourced, so that accessible and timely treatment is available to them. people who need it.

Until we change our view of addiction – from personal failure to a mental disorder, something we can’t control more than we can control cancer – Australians, and millions of people around the world. world, will continue to suffer.

We have partnered with over 40 organizations to develop a national campaign, “Rethinking addictionWhich calls for a national drug treatment action plan and advocates for a change in Australia’s attitude and response to drug addiction.

We encourage anyone affected by drug addiction or passionate about stigma reduction to share their story and get involved in advocating for change.

After the year we’ve all had, there’s no better time to rethink addiction.

Read more: We are told to ‘play responsibly’. But what does this really mean?


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