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Recovery: Into the Future

Despite my seemingly resilient approach to work and life, occasionally, I cannot help feeling like surrendering to the "fait accompli" that defines Australian Iconic Culture as it relates to our field of expertise. It really feels like an uphill battle particularly as some of the battles are fought with politically and / or professionally blind individuals.


It is heart wrenching when so many amongst our clinicians, can depict the problem (s) distinguishing their overwhelming effects right across our nation but yet feel somewhat helpless to act; our concerns ought to project beyond the immediate future, much further, towards the century ahead.


With such an awesome task at hand, it is no wonder that I feel "helpless" in effecting any "real" or "significant" change despite my belief that there are certainly many possible solutions to these problems. However, attempting to tackle such issues on an INDIVIDUAL level feels very much like trying to empty out the ocean using a tea cup. Once in a while, I feel inspired and connected. An example of such a connection is whenever I am invited to speak out about the need for a change in our culture / social belief and / or attitude towards alcohol and other drugs.


A synergistic collaborative effort being instigated is much more effective whenever others within our profession become ready and able to join the momentum for effecting change. However, change in itself and its potential for success rests squarely in our understanding of “who or what we are” and “who or what do we want to become”! Consequently, allow me to express few thoughts on where we are and my own views or perception of where we ought to move to, through what is referred to herein as the process of “Recovery".


"Recovery", in my opinion, should be a process that begins at the very FIRST point where our habits and beliefs are initially "wrongly", "mistakenly" or even passively imprinted, be that on a stereotypical, cultural or even a social pattern of belief in the brain. "Recovery" ought not be the process through which we "get better" after an illness. Instead, "recovery" is the CORRECTION that occurs AFTER an error has taken place, namely, whenever say a machine begins to produce a mutated mould for replication. I believe, as a society, this is where we are: a stage whereby our social fabric is producing mutated replica in bulk. We have no hope in correcting this error until we become aware of it in the first place.


Much like an aggressive cancer spreading with no cell to cell inhibition, the current social mutation is in fact conquering over the so called “normal” or “healthy” point of view of who or what we are! This conquering / overtaking process represents the contagious style through which peer group pressure succeeds in making us all photocopies of the same mould. Like sheep led to the slaughter, we start to imitate each other, even competing with one another for the one who does the most harm through drinking or using drugs.


In the context of "drugs", this type of social disease is the worst; a “social cancer" conquering over our view of life with consequential harm that is so spread and multiplying so effectively, so consistently and so uniformly, that our opposition to its manifestation or problematic nature is weakening to a point of surrender. Ongoing justification & tolerance has turned it into what is the "modern" way of life. I believe we are now undergoing a process of “normalisation” supported by tolerance, ignorance and the so called modern view of western lifestyle / civilisation.


For example, binge drinking in a social setting is "what people do or are expected to do" as it indicates a socially accepted pattern of behaviour. In contrast, the reality of this situation ought to repel an "aware consumer" of binge drinking regardless of where or when it occurs, socially or otherwise. When one ponders a deep and meaningful thought about what has transpired and what is becoming increasingly "sick" or a "sick way of living / thinking" in our society, one is suddenly confronted with the "emu and head in the sand" analogy. It is sad. It is very sad, particularly, when I think about our children and their children for many future generations to come.


In summary, we must act NOW.


Let's not lack the confidence in calling a spade a spade. Let's inform the community of our intolerance of such behaviours. In turn, hopefully, we just might be able, collectively, to get the message through. Ironically, the message does exist and is available to all of us through the NH&MRC (National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia). However, this message is not getting through and I suspect the reason lies between domains of economically-based conflicts of interest and cowardly-based peer group / social pressures.


My Proposal


First and foremost, we need to understand that we are facing a sickness in our society with tentacles that extend right out touching just about every aspect and domain of our lifestyle. Once viewed as a “sickness”, we can in turn begin to understand the need, the necessity to find a “cure”, or treatment. Accordingly, I propose setting up Medical Management for Alcohol / Drug-Induced Sicknesses that include drug administration as part of its terms of treatment to those who qualify for such therapies. Such specialist Health or Rehabilitation Centres, let's call them Specialist Hospitals, would begin a process of dealing with and healing the "sick" through the implementation of different stages for recovery, as follows:


  • Assessment for feasibility of treatment (out-patient program)
  • Agreement on a time line for gradual reduction from drugs to a stable self-management therapy which may include drug administration under medical supervision.
  • Specialist health care workers on site with an open mind on treatment models, specialised in the field, bringing the patient to the right model of treatment not the one model of treatment to all the patients.
  • Ongoing monitoring and evaluation to maintain the road to recovery and re-evaluate after slip ups.
  • Specialised advisory committee made up of treatment professionals recommending toughening up of legislation for those who are affected by drugs but refuse to seek help; such as mandatory treatment for those involved in crime instigated or mediated by drug use or addiction.
  • Referral to local GP to maintain progress through regular visits and ongoing episodes of care.
  • PBS and support on multiple levels to all patients who qualify.


Such an approach would bring the focus back on the ailment / sickness, NOT the users themselves. Accordingly, morality and prejudice will dissipate as we focus instead on treatment goals and the “sick” or the “sickness”. This would also free up our society from crimes instigated by those afflicted by drugs who act to score to satisfy their craving / addiction. Significantly, we help prevent or minimise crime through the instigation of the stages of recovery.


Our ultimate aim should be to provide our future generations with an environment conducive to healthy and crime-free lifestyle.


Under the above model of treatment, those who need help, all those who are addicted, would receive adequate treatment including the controversial assessment for feasibility of drug administration. Accordingly, as we help annul the need for black market trafficking of drugs, we may begin to collect the rewards of minimising the need for drug trafficking. This is bound to produce positive results on the “Legal / Police” domains and on the general war on drugs. Significantly, associated or consequential crimes such as thefts / assaults and tragically, incidents of overdosing / suicide and the like may be reduced as the predisposing factors for these have been addressed and kept under control.


Again, our goal for a better future becomes more attainable.


My Call 


I hereby call upon all of us in this field to help re-define "Recovery" as a process through which we "save" our future generation from the passive learning we leave behind. In this regard, I ask you to support our timely and unique campaign to "correct" the way Australians perceive alcohol or other drugs.


I would appreciate help and support from government and non government organisations and individuals inspired by this call. You can support us in whatever way you deem beneficial, be that by emails, letters, petitions, media interviews, press releases etc.


Ultimately, we plan to conduct (sponsored) Public Awareness Lectures & forums for open discussions across the nation to enable, kick-start and maintain this process of change. We are looking for sponsors for such free public forums.


Finally, I would be cautious to point out that our message will not be viewed as 'anti-alcohol" but rather as a balanced and scientifically-based message towards responsible / moderate alcohol consumption.


I look forward to face to face discussions and joining in with other like-minded individuals in such efforts / campaigns.




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