Addicted Australia - Episode 1

10 Nov 2020

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.

Turning Point wishes to thank SBS and Blackfella Films for inviting us to take part in this ground-breaking, Australian-first, documentary series.

Turning Point would also like to thank and acknowledge the ten participants, and their families, who have bravely shared their stories to change the conversation and break down the stigma associated with addiction.

Addiction is a health issue, which remains pervasive throughout our society.

One in five Australians will experience an alcohol, other drug or gambling disorder in their lifetime. Anyone can be affected, as addiction does not discriminate – against age, gender, beliefs, income or social status.

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.

This is their story.

What does addiction actually look like?

“I don’t look like a drug addict, so I’ve been told. I don’t know what one looks like really, because I’m one, so they look like me,” Sarah, 42, addicted to ‘ice’ (crystal methamphetamine).

People struggling with addiction have long been depicted in the media as on the fringes of society. But that’s not reality. Sarah, one of the participants in the series, clearly shows that anyone can be affected by addiction.

The statistics prove that it’s not ‘other’ people living with addiction; its people who live in our communities. It’s our family, friends and neighbours.

Shame and stigma

“There is this idea that if you are addicted to whatever it is, you’re to be shamed. So I don’t say anything,” Heidi, 31, addicted to alcohol.

Heidi’s experience is far too common. People affected by addiction often experience stigma and shame, that make it difficult to ask for help.

The notion that addiction is a choice and that those who experience addiction should be blamed is incredibly damaging. Nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses to develop an addiction.

Shame and stigma results in long delays in seeking help. It takes on average 18 years for someone with an addiction to reach out for support. Unfortunately, for those who do find the courage to seek help, they often experience a broken, fragmented system.

Highlighting a broken system

“If you have an addiction and you go for help, it’s an absolute lottery what you are going to get,” Professor Dan Lubman, Turning Point Executive Clinical Director.

We know that treatment can work. With the right treatment, people can recover and go on to live healthy, fulfilled lives.

The treatment provided by Turning Point for this series is unique for its duration, holistic approach, comprehensive level of multidisciplinary care, and inclusion of wrap around support. The six month program designed for each participant included some combination of outpatient care, detox, pharmacotherapy, social work, individual and family counselling, and peer support, giving the clients the best chance of recovery.

“People present with very complex and complicated lives, but we know that treatment can work and recovery is possible,” Professor Dan Lubman

In this first episode, we start to see some of the underlying reasons that have led the participants to need this program.

Addiction is more complex than having too much alcohol or other drugs, or gambling too often. It’s critical to understand what puts an individual on a path to developing an addiction, and to manage these factors to support their recovery.

For many people with an addiction, there is lived experience of adversity, trauma and mental health issues. Identifying underlying issues and vulnerabilities that have led to a person’s addiction, and their consequences, enables people to get the care and support they need.

The kind face of support

While there are many areas of the system that need fixing, it should be highlighted there are many dedicated clinicians working across the sector who are passionate about helping people and doing an exceptional job.

This is beautifully highlighted by many of the interactions with participants seen in this first episode.

You can find out a bit more about the team who provided the program here.

Connection is key

An important element of the six-month treatment program is peer support. Peer support workers, Craig and Oscar, who have their own lived experience of addiction, lead Turning Point’s peer support group meetings.

The aim of the peer support group is to bring together people who have a shared experience, who have something in common. While each participant’s treatment program is different, and tailored to their own needs, the group is a way for them connect and provide support to one other in a supportive environment free from stigma.

“There is a real power in being around people who are experiencing similar things,” Jess, 26, addicted to alcohol.


Everybody’s path to recovery is different. For some people, it will begin with detoxification or ‘detox’.

Detox is different for everybody and not everyone will experience withdrawal in the same way.

As we saw with Ruben, a person experiencing heroin addiction, withdrawal can result in a range of challenging behavioural, physiological and cognitive changes, hours to a few days after stopping or reducing heavy and prolonged substance use. Some of those symptoms are made worse when there are co-occurring illnesses.

But, as time goes by, these changes will subside and people begin to appear and feel healthier.

For people withdrawing from alcohol and other drugs, treatment may include pharmacotherapies.

These pharmacotherapies allow patients to experience fewer withdrawal symptoms and cravings, giving them the headspace they need to continue with their recovery.

Hope is key

One thing we see time and again is that hope is an incredibly important and powerful part of recovering from an addiction. All too often people affected by addiction have experienced so much shame, stigma and rejection, that it may feel impossible for them to make a change.

But it is possible and there are many people here to help.

“There is the possibility of recovery for every patient,” Dr Ferghal Armstrong

We believe Addicted Australia is incredibly empowering viewing, and the most truthful portrayal of addiction that has ever been shown on Australian television.

Remember if you or anyone you know is affected by addiction and need support, help is available:

For alcohol or drug support:

1800 250 015 or Counselling Online

For gambling support:

1800 858 858 or Gambling Help Online