Addiction is an illness. One can get addicted to anything under the sun including the sun itself. There are however substances and behaviours that are more addictive than others. Beyond drug and alcohol addiction, some other common examples of addiction are gambling, Internet addiction, and sex addiction.
My primary area of expertise in treating addiction is helping those who are addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs, and other chemicals. I earned my PhD studying people with addictions, primarily those who were addicted to Valium and similar drugs (benzodiazepines). In recognition of my experience and training I was made a Foundation Fellow of the Chapter of Addiction Medicine, of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
The legal status of any substance or behaviour depends on the country and its laws. However, to the addicted brain, the legal status of the chemical or habit doesn’t matter. I take a holistic approach in order to help those who suffer from addiction, realising that it is a chronic, relapsing, biological illness that also creates damaging interpersonal and social consequences. The illness is not an excuse but it can be viewed as a mitigating circumstance, in terms of the behaviour of an addict, especially when they have just engaged in treatment.
Substance withdrawal with pharmacological, psychological support and education is a necessary first step on the path to recovery. One man can lead a horse to water, yet ten men cannot make him drink it; a fundamental truth in the field of addictions. Once a habit has taken hold, it is extremely difficult, but possible to overcome.
Addiction also has an impact on society. From the person who suffers the addiction, to their family, and their larger community, addiction is an illness that hurts more than the addict. The first step for families, schools, communities, and organizations to deal with the problems caused by addiction is to understand the nature of addiction. Understanding how a person’s environment contributes to their addiction, and more importantly, their recovery, is a crucial piece to the puzzle.
Recently, the team at Wavelength, asked me to collaborate on a blog to highlight the importance of mental health in Australia. The blog post titled "4 Steps to Start a Mental Wellbeing Conversation" was written to recognize, and call greater attention to the "R U OK?" movement, a group dedicated to suicide prevention by proactively reaching out to those who suffer from mental illness or are in high-risk situations. [Read more]