Dr Ferghal Armstrong
Dr Ferghal Armstrong graduated from the Queens University Belfast in 1998. He qualified as a General Practitioner in 2003 and worked in his own GP Practice, as an Occupational Health Consultant, and as a GP delivering medical services in prisons.
He moved to Australia in 2014, completing Addiction Medicine training at Eastern Health, Box Hill Hospital, under the auspices of Turning Point Statewide Services, achieving Fellowship of the Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine (FAChAM) in 2020.
What made you want to work in the addiction sector?
My initial experiences of treatment success whilst training in addiction medicine in the UK triggered my passion for this field of medicine. This passion continues to burn bright in me.
What are the misconceptions of addiction?
The misconceptions of addiction are that addicts are immoral, that they make bad choices, and that recovery and relapse is merely a choice. That there is a magic pill that can cure addiction.
I constantly strive to put the following message across.
Substance use disorders are a group of conditions that are chronic diseases associated with relapse. Patients are not immoral and do demonstrate challenging behaviours just because they chose to. These behaviours are symptoms of a chronic relapsing disorder. Treatment for addiction requires involvement in a wide range of therapies, which can include medication, but also needs to include psychosocial therapies including peer support therapies.
What are the biggest challenges for someone with an addiction?
The biggest challenges are firstly acknowledging that there is a problem in the first place, and secondly making that call! Patients experience of contact with healthcare is full of rejection, stigma and judgement. That first call is so very important and services need to constantly be aware of the immediate first impression that they trigger in patients.
What has been your experience of the documentary?
Working with the team was a pleasure. Everyone demonstrated the highest degree of professionalism and commitment to the end result.
What do you hope people will see when they watch the documentary?
I hope that viewers will see the humanity in our patients. They are no different from the rest of us. Secondly, I hope they will see that recovery is a possibility for everyone, given the right resources.
How can we as a society ‘Rethink Addiction’?
We need more funding to the sector, and we need society to understand that addiction is more common than people think. If people start to realise how common addiction actually is, we will start to break down the stigma. We also need to understand that treatment does work.