Addiction Australia – a conversation with Professor Dan Lubman and Mental Health by talklink
If you’re like most people, the word “addiction” might conjure up an image of a shady person clutching a paper bag filled with cheap red wine. But according to the National Survey of Mental Health, one in five Australians have a problem with drugs, alcohol or gambling at some point in their lives.
It turns out that, on average, you and I would know seven people struggling with addiction within our social circles and probably be none the wiser to who they are.
In a recent two-part podcast series hosted by talklink, Professor Dan Lubman (Psychiatrist, Director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre and Professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University) takes a deep dive into the world of addictions. Professor Dan and his team at Turning Point (Australia’s leading national addiction treatment, research and education center) sit with people struggling with many types of addictions. He talks through the A to Z of addiction: from the common ways addiction progresses to the biological science behind it. The thing that is glaringly obvious is that whilst many Australians struggle with addiction, we also have a huge problem with stigmatisation of addiction with only small proportion of those with a drug, alcohol or gambling problem actually reaching out to get support.
A combination of Australia’s entrenched drinking culture and the increasing accessibility of alcohol has meant that people are drinking more, and that means it can be harder to identify when someone has developed an addiction to alcohol when compared to something like methamphetamine. ‘There is often a 20-year delay in seeking help for an addiction to alcohol’ says Professor Dan. He reflects on how often he sees people who were once celebrated by others as “the life of the party” in their twenties, reach their early-to-late thirties and for their peers to realise they have a serious issue with alcohol and are still relying on it, whilst they move on with their careers or family responsibilities. At this point, the path to recovery is so much harder with already 15 years of entrenched habits behind them.
Some of the most important work Professor Dan and his team at Turning Point are doing is changing the narrative around addiction and the people who fall victim to it. This includes educating Australians on the signs of addiction, leading progressive discussions, humanising addiction and encouraging the community to show empathy to people struggling. Addiction often develops as a result of self-medicating: using the substance as a solution to another problem. More and more we’re seeing these “problems” pertain to trauma, isolation, loss of purpose, relationship and familial breakdowns and feeling disconnected from their community. Through this lens, it is obvious how a solid support network is essential for recovery.
Professor Dan Lubman’s latest project is a documentary, Addicted Australia following the stories of ten Australians and their families who have engaged in a novel treatment program to help overcome their addiction. The documentary is a four-part series, airing in November 2020 on SBS and SBS On Demand.
Turning Point is part of a broader public campaign, Rethink Addiction, which is seeking to change the conversation around addiction and how we respond. The campaign provides the opportunity to share stories about addiction and calls for a national plan for addiction treatment.