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Why Stigma Surrounding Addiction Prevents People From Seeking Help

After shining a light on Australia’s dark history, Secrets We Keep has almost come to an end, but there was one element about her mother’s past that remained unanswered for journalist Amelia Oberhardt.

For years, Amelia’s mother was able to disguise her alcohol dependence, maintaining her appearance and job.  

“She always looked very put together. Her hair was always immaculate, makeup on, nails always painted,” Amelia said.  

“I’ve heard it referred to many times as the disease of denial.”  

In the final episode of the series, Amelia confronts the stigma of addiction, and tries to find answers for what pain her mum might have been masking.  

9. Repeat or repair

Amelia’s mum isn’t alone – around 1 in 20 Australians will develop an alcohol, drug or gambling problem in their life. And for alcohol dependency, it can take people around 18 years before they seek help.  

Amelia spoke to Professor Dan Lubman from Australian Addiction Research and Education centre, Turning Point to find our more. 

Professor Lubman says many people delay seeking help due to the underlying stigma associated with alcohol or drug dependency.  

“We know that addiction is the most stigmatized health condition globally, and that’s because the way in which we think about addiction and talk about addiction is really as a moral issue rather than as a health issue,” he said.  

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“So, we tend to judge people.” 

However, help is available, and treatment has come a long way.  

“Over the last 20-30 years, we’ve learned a lot more about addiction and what causes addiction and how to treat it. If we’re looking at treatment, we can say at least two thirds of people will overcome their addiction and live positive, meaningful lives and meet the goals they want to attain,” said Professor Lubman.  

In the final episode of Secrets We Keep, Amelia looks at what can cause someone to form an addiction, why it is important to open up dialogue about the issue and how we can overcome the stigma.  

For issues with alcohol and other drugs, you can talk to your GP or contact the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline at 1800 250 015.

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