Drugs treat­ment ig­nores darker side

De­pres­sion and sub­stance abuse go to­gether and suf­fer­ers need holis­tic treat­ment, re­ports Stephen Lunn

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

SAM has been clean and sober for six months. Now 20, he smoked his first cig­a­rette and tried a bong on his sec­ond day of high school, aged 12. In his sec­ond week he gave Jim Beam a try.

Di­ag­nosed with At­ten­tion Deficit Hy­per­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der early in pri­mary school, Sam says he felt per­sis­tently fuzzy and un­able to con­cen­trate as a boy.

He also felt emo­tion­ally im­ma­ture at high school, and be­came iso­lated from oth­ers his own age.

‘‘ I ended up hang­ing around with the wrong peo­ple, older peo­ple and that led to drugs, too much al­co­hol, too much mar­i­juana.’’

By 18, Sam, who does not want his sur­name pub­lished, was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ‘‘ black­outs’’ at work, even when he hadn’t been drink­ing or us­ing drugs.

He was wor­ried enough to seek treat­ment, but the first pro­gram didn’t stick and when his par­ents took a month’s hol­i­day leav­ing him alone in the house, the taste of free­dom over­whelmed the weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

‘‘ I quit my job and got trashed for a month. I didn’t eat. I got re­ally skinny and un­healthy.’’

A sec­ond pro­gram fi­nally turned it around. ‘‘ An­other user told me there was no point in com­ing to treat­ment half-stoned. You had to fully com­mit. He was com­ing off harder drugs than me, and I don’t know why, but it just got me go­ing.’’

The con­stant, he says, were par­ents who sup­ported him above and be­yond the call. ‘‘ My mum is a one in a mil­lion. She has been there for me so many times when I didn’t de­serve it.’’

Sam is hardly alone in fight­ing dual bat­tles with some form of men­tal ill­ness, of­ten de­pres­sion, and sub­stance abuse. They go hand in hand for nearly 500,000 Aus­tralians, warns John Ryan, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Harm Min­imi­sa­tion Pro­grams of Aus­tralia (Anex), yet are too of­ten di­ag­nosed and treated sep­a­rately.

Around 75 per cent of peo­ple with al­co­hol and sub­stance abuse prob­lems may have a men­tal ill­ness.

‘‘ It is an un­for­tu­nate tra­di­tion in the health sys­tem of providers only want­ing to deal with ar­eas they have ex­per­tise in and ne­glect other ar­eas, for ex­am­ple, men­tal health and drug use. They need to treat peo­ple holis­ti­cally,’’ Ryan says.

He was speak­ing at a con­fer­ence in Melbourne look­ing to de­velop col­lab­o­ra­tive strate­gies to com­bat the com­bi­na­tion of drug use and men­tal health.

Men­tal Health Coun­cil of Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive David Cros­bie said the link, high­lighted by the re­cent high profile case of rugby league star Andrew Johns, was ‘‘ not co­in­ci­den­tal’’.

‘‘ The re­al­ity is that drug prob­lems are a big part of our com­mu­nity and men­tal health prob­lems are a big part of our com­mu­nity and the kind of case de­scribed by Andrew Johns where he had de­pres­sion that led to heavy al­co­hol use and oc­ca­sional ec­stasy use to me is very com­mon,’’ Cros­bie says.

‘‘ What sur­prises me I sup­pose is that the com­mu­nity will fo­cus al­most ex­clu­sively on the il­licit drug use and not on the men­tal health or the al­co­hol use, which are also very im­por­tant fac­tors for many peo­ple who have both con­di­tions.’’

Pa­trick Hamil­ton

Com­mit­ment: Per­sist­ing with treat­ment for drugs is work­ing for Sam

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.