Dr Vicky Phan
What made you want to work in the addiction sector?
I realised that the story of addiction is always bigger than people using drugs or gambling. Underneath that is always some vulnerability, some lived experience of difficulty or hardship that allows addiction to take hold and drive a wedge between people and healthy lives. And, when you give people the healthcare, treatment and support they need to recover from addiction, you’re not just helping them, you’re helping families, communities, and allowing them to be recognised as the valuable people they are. I’m proud and privileged that that’s my job.
What are the misconceptions of addiction?
A major misconception of addiction is that it happens because people have poor moral willpower. Addiction is a disease that will take seed where there is vulnerable ground. That vulnerable ground might be a person struggling to cope with trauma, a person who is experiencing pain, a person who is alone. Addiction is nobody’s preference, it is instead a signal that here is a person who is not in the best health, who is struggling with something, and who needs help.
What are the biggest challenges for someone with an addiction?
A big challenge for people experiencing addiction is knowing where to get help and getting to a point where they feel supported and safe enough to ask for it. The trouble with addiction being such a stigmatised issue is that people don’t feel able to acknowledge it and talk openly about it. Stigma lets addiction live in the shadows and people go unheard and unseen.
What has been your experience of the documentary?
I found the documentary series to be a unique and important opportunity to invite the general public into the lives of people affected by addiction and clinicians working in the sector. There is something incredibly powerful about letting people speak, unfiltered and for themselves, particularly while people experiencing addiction and addiction treatments continue to be less valued by and visible to society. That shouldn’t be the case. The people in this documentary series show that, and they show that we need to recognise and care about addiction.
What do you hope people will see when they watch the documentary?
I hope that the documentary series will lift the voices of people affected by addiction, challenge misconceptions, break down stigma, and open the door for people who have been silent about their own addiction, to seek help to recover.
How can we as a society ‘Rethink Addiction’?
By speaking more honestly about addiction, recognising it as the health issue it is and demonstrating the same level of respect and empathy to individuals affected by addiction, that we do to people experiencing any other health concern.