Addicted Australia - Episode 3

24 Nov 2020

This recap of Addicted Australia explores the treatment and support provided to documentary participants, and the themes covered in Episode 3. 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.

Addicted Australia - Episode 3

This recap of Addicted Australia explores the treatment and support provided to documentary participants, and the themes covered in Episode 3.

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.

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.

The mental toll of dealing with addiction

In this episode, 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. Heidi feels apprehension and distress as she prepares to go to detox, and this is a very common experience. It is important acknowledge that going to detox is a difficult first step for most people and that focussing on the benefits of change, the possibility of recovery, and each achievement can help people get through each day at a time.

“It’s tiring to wake up every single day and that’s what you think about,” Heidi, 31, addicted to alcohol.

There is no single path to recovery

Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to managing addiction and people can experience an array of challenges on their way to recovery. It’s also important to understand that managing addiction is not the same for everyone and treatment goals can vary, depending on where people are at. For some people success can be staying engaged with treatment to keep working towards recovery, for others it can be maintaining sobriety, or reducing alcohol consumption, other drug use or gambling. People need to able to access support regardless of where they are at, or where they have been in their journey, to have the opportunity to manage their addiction.

Taking that first step to getting help should be celebrated

“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, Turning Point.

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. What stops people affected by addiction feeling able to ask for, and access the help they need is stigma and shame. This needs to change.

What happens after detox?

Peoples’ recovery journeys following detox can be different, depending on individual preferences and healthcare needs. 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 rehabilitation admission occurs to help her maintain positive changes. Heidi attends Wellington House, a residential unit for people requiring additional time to stabilise their physical and mental health after detoxification.

Here, patients are supported to develop their own wellness plans for the future, and are encouraged to attend sessions to help them with their recovery.

“My priority in rehab is myself, I have realised I have never put myself first, and this space has allowed me to do that,” Heidi, 31, addicted to alcohol.

Lapse and relapse

It is common for people recovering from addiction to go through periods of lapse and relapse. During the peer support group, Oscar explains 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. It is important to remember that lapse and relapse are not signs of weakness or failure, and rather can be an opportunity to recognise individual triggers and vulnerabilities to learn 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,” Oscar, 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," Lucas, 38, gambling addiction.

The link between trauma and addiction

“It’s not heroin that I want treated, it’s my depression. It’s what’s behind the addiction,” Keegan, 30, addicted to heroin.

Trauma is a common underlying factor among people affected by addiction. Keegan’s substance use has been a way for him to cope with things that have 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.

“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, Turning Point.

Treatments for gambling

Many people will be surprised to know that there are a range of treatment options available for people with a gambling addiction, including prescribed medication. As we see with Lucas, part of his treatment program includes being prescribed a medication called naltrexone to help him manage his gambling addiction. Naltrexone is a drug that has been shown to be effective in reducing cravings.

“Like we have medications for the treatment of heroin addiction and alcohol addiction, similarly we can use medications that have shown to be effective in the treatment of gambling addiction,” Professor Dan Lubman, Executive Clinical Director, Turning Point.

Emergency healthcare and addiction

Sarah and Dawn both receive emergency medical care in this episode, Sarah for a suspected overdose and Dawn for a heart condition. For many people struggling with addiction these types of contacts could be a crucial touch point with health services. Unfortunately due to the lack of addiction medicine training for paramedics and Emergency Department staff, plus the disconnect of the system, people affected by addiction are not always offered the specialist care and support they need by these services. In this instance, Sarah and Dawn both attended a hospital that was part of Eastern Health – Turning Point’s parent organisation – and their emergency medical care was able to be integrated with their addiction treatment. However, this is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

We hope you found episode 3 of Addicted Australia to be empowering and insightful. If you would like to help us change the conversation about addiction, you can join the #RethinkAddiction campaign.

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

For alcohol or other drug support: 1800 250 015 or Counselling Online

For gambling support: 1800 858 858 or Gambling Help Online

For support relating to sexual assault, domestic or family violence 1800 737 732 1800 RESPECT.