Experiences of alcohol and other drug addiction, dependence or habit in Australia: New report
A new NDRI report produced by a team of researchers led by Professor Suzanne Fraser illuminates lived experiences of alcohol and other drug addiction or dependence in Australia.
Based on a large-scale qualitative research project funded by the Australian Research Council, the report finds that, contrary to commonly held stereotypes, people who see themselves as affected by addiction are extremely diverse and their individual circumstances and experiences of consumption are equally varied. Importantly, many cope and lead rich, full lives, regulating their consumption, actively managing the risks of heavy use and looking after their health. Some also point out that, for them, regular consumption can support and enhance health as much as impede it. A key concern for many is coping with addiction-related stigma in the context of family and friends, the workplace, the healthcare system, the media and the criminal justice system. For many, the stigma of drug use is as harmful as, or more harmful than, drug use itself.
As Professor Suzanne Fraser explains:
“Drug use and addiction receive an enormous amount of media attention but most coverage tends to focus on extreme circumstances or is guided by common fears and misconceptions about people who use drugs, and addiction. This report offers important new insights into the many ways people live with drug dependence, how they cope and even thrive, and the challenges they face, including stigma and misunderstanding.”
The report makes a range of recommendations for improving alcohol and other drug policy design and service provision, with a particular focus on addressing stigma. It identifies a need for:
- Strengths-based approaches that focus on whole people who have skills and assets;
- Policies and treatment practices that are responsive to individual needs and sufficiently flexible to enable tailored care;
- More resources that support people who regularly consume alcohol and other drugs to maintain their health and well-being;
- Stigma and discrimination training as a core part of workforce development for healthcare and criminal justice system professionals; and
- Media training and standard guidelines on how to report sensitively and in an informed way on drug use and addiction issues.
The project on which the report was based also produced a ground-breaking public website, Livesofsubstance.org. Intended to inform health professionals, policymakers, service providers, consumer groups and the general public, the website offers much-needed new insights into the range of experiences that make up life for people who see themselves as affected by addiction issues.
The research presented in the report was undertaken by researchers from NDRI in collaboration with Healthtalk Australia, Monash University, the Centre for Social Research in Health at the University of New South Wales, and the Hunter New England Local Health District. A full copy of the report is available here.