The year 2020 has challenged us all. The bushfires and then the pandemic forced us to reflect on what’s important, how we respond to crises as a community, and the ways we connect and support each other.
We’re still grappling with what the long-term mental health effects of this period of fear, insecurity and social disconnection might be.
At the start of the pandemic we saw a surge in alcohol sales and reported drinking. Almost one-third of people who purchased more alcohol expressed concerns about their own drinking, or that of someone in their household.
People often turn to alcohol or other drugs to help cope with stress, financial pressures, loss and trauma. Increases in drinking are consistently reported after natural disasters, acts of terrorism and economic crises.
It’s therefore timely to reflect on our perceptions of addiction, who is affected, and how we respond.
What is addiction?
In simple terms, addiction is the inability to stop consuming a drug or cease an activity, even if it’s causing physical or psychological harm.
A common misconception is that it’s a result of a lack of willpower or poor self-control. But in reality, addiction is a complex health disorder with a range of biological, developmental and environmental risk factors, including trauma, social isolation or exclusion, and genetics.
Despite common stereotypes, addiction doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds.
Stigma is disabling
Addiction remains one of the most stigmatised of all health conditions globally. We grant compassion to people with health conditions like cancer, heart disease or diabetes, yet society doesn’t offer that same concern to someone with an addiction.
Too often, we blame the individual, believing the addiction is their fault. But addiction is an unfortunate consequence of something much more complex.
As a consequence of feeling shame and judgement, it can often take people many years to seek help. This is compounded by multiple barriers to treatment (such as geography, cost, waiting times and concerns about privacy).
Yet our refusal to have an honest conversation about how we respond to tobacco, alcohol, drug and gambling-related harm comes at a significant cost to the Australian community, exceeding A$175 billion annually.
A broken system
Across Australia, treatment for addiction remains fragmented, with limited opportunities for ongoing care. There’s no consistent national planning, despite evidence that for every $1 invested in treatment, society gains $7.
The situation is exacerbated by a health workforce that has had limited opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate training in addiction, meaning emergency and primary care systems frequently struggle to respond.
This is in stark contrast with other chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease, where there are clear training pathways, clinical guidelines and national models of care.
So, many individuals suffering from addiction and their families are left to navigate their own pathways to treatment.
A tragic consequence of this fragmented and failing system is that we continue to see preventable deaths associated with different types of addiction.
Tackling the stigma
The recent SBS documentary series Addicted Australia follows ten brave Australians and their families as they seek professional help for addiction over a six-month period. It’s an important step in challenging prevailing myths and stereotypes around addiction.
The series opens the door to the realities of addiction, providing viewers with a deeper understanding of the disorder, the devastating effect it has on individuals and families, and what effective treatment and recovery looks like when people have access to a holistic model of care.
The hope is that this series will help change community perceptions about the reality of addiction, elevate expectations about what treatment should look like, and alter the narrative such that recovery is not just a possibility, but like for other health conditions, is a realistic goal.
A call to action
Treating addiction like any other health disorder has to start with strong public policy reform and intervention to ensure the health system is adequately supported and resourced, so accessible and timely treatment is available to people who need it.
Until we change how we view addiction — from personal failure to a mental disorder, something we cannot control any more than we can control cancer — Australians, and millions globally, will continue to suffer.
We’ve partnered with more than 40 organisations to develop a national campaign, “Rethink Addiction”, that calls for a national action plan for addiction treatment and advocates for a change to Australia’s attitude and response to addiction.
We encourage anyone who has been touched by addiction or is passionate about reducing stigma to share their story and get involved in making the case for change.
After the year we’ve all had, there’s no better time to rethink addiction.
The mentally and morally “unfit” should be sterilized, Professor David Marsland, a sociologist and health expert, said this weekend. The professor made the remarks on the BBC radio program Iconoclasts, which advertises itself as the place to “think the unthinkable,” reports Hilary White, LifeSiteNews.com.
Pro-life advocates and disability rights campaigners have responded by saying that Marsland’s proposed system is a straightforward throwback to the coercive eugenics practices of the past.
Marsland, Emeritus Scholar of Sociology and Health Sciences at Brunel University, London and Professorial Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Buckingham, told the BBC that “permanent sterilization” is the solution to child neglect and abuse.
“Children are abused or grossly neglected by a very small minority of inadequate parents.” Such parents, he said, are not distinguished by “disadvantage, poverty or exploitation,” he said, but by “a number or moral and mental inadequacies” caused by “serious mental defect,” “chronic mental illness” and drug addiction and alcoholism.
“Short of lifetime incarceration,” he said, the solution is “permanent sterilization.”
The debate, chaired by the BBC’s Edward Stourton, was held in response to a request by a local council in the West Midlands that wanted to force contraception on a 29-year-old woman who members of the council judged was mentally incapable of making decisions about childrearing. The judge in the case refused to permit it, saying such a decision would “raise profound questions about state intervention in private and family life.”
Children whose parents are alcoholics or drug addicts can be rescued from abusive situations, but, Marlsand said, “Why should we allow further predictable victims to be harmed by the same perpetrators? Here too, sterilization provides a dependable answer.”
He dismissed possible objections based on human rights, saying that “Rights is a grossly overused and fundamentally incoherent concept … Neither philosophers nor political activists can agree on the nature of human rights or on their extent.”
Complaints that court-ordered sterilization could be abused “should be ignored,” he added. “This argument would inhibit any and every action of social defense.”
Brian Clowes, director of research for Human Life International (HLI), told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that in his view Professor Marsland is just one more in a long line of eugenicists who want to solve human problems by erasing the humans who have them. Clowes compared Marsland to Lothrop Stoddard and Margaret Sanger, prominent early 20th century eugenicists who promoted contraception and sterilization for blacks, Catholics, the poor and the mentally ill and disabled whom they classified as “human weeds.”
He told LSN, “It does not seem to occur to Marsland that most severe child abuse is committed by people he might consider ‘perfectly normal,’ people like his elitist friends and neighbors.”
“Most frightening of all,” he said, “is Marsland’s dismissal of human rights. In essence, he is saying people have no rights whatsoever, because there is no universal agreement on what those rights actually are.”
The program, which aired on Saturday, August 28, also featured a professor of ethics and philosophy at Oxford, who expressed concern about Marland’s proposal, saying, “There are serious problems about who makes the decisions, and abuses.” Janet Radcliffe Richards, a Professor of Practical Philosophy at Oxford, continued, “I would dispute the argument that this is for the sake of the children.
“It’s curious case that if the child doesn’t exist, it can’t be harmed. And to say that it would be better for the child not to exist, you need to be able to say that its life is worse than nothing. Now I think that’s a difficult thing to do because most people are glad they exist.”
But Radcliffe Richards refused to reject categorically the notion of forced sterilization as a solution to social problems. She said there “is a really serious argument” about the “cost to the rest of society of allowing people to have children when you can pretty strongly predict that those children are going to be a nuisance.”
Marsland’s remarks also drew a response from Alison Davis, head of the campaign group No Less Human, who rejected his entire argument, saying that compulsory sterilization would itself be “an abuse of some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
Marsland’s closing comments, Davis said, were indicative of his anti-human perspective. In those remarks he said that nothing in the discussion had changed his mind, and that the reduction of births would be desirable since “there are too many people anyway.”
Davis commented, “As a disabled person myself I find his comments offensive, degrading and eugenic in content.
“The BBC is supposed to stand against prejudicial comments against any minority group. As such it is against it’s own code of conduct, as well as a breach of basic human decency, to broadcast such inflammatory and ableist views.”
Report from the Christian Telegraph
As Kazakhstan is about to begin the role of 2010 Chairperson-in-Office for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the country continues to violate its OSCE human rights commitments, reports Forum 18 News Service.
One Protestant pastor is facing criminal charges for "causing severe damage to health due to negligence" because he prayed with a woman about her health, at her request. The KNB secret police declined to explain why a pastor praying for people attending his church should be a matter for criminal charges.
Asked whether Pastor Kim is being targeted for his faith, the KNB officer told Forum 18 News Service that: "There is no persecution in Kazakhstan". The authorities also continue to throughout Kazakhstan close Christian-run rehabilitation centres for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Report from the Christian Telegraph