A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald shared the clinical opinion of Dr Teoh, Clinical Director at Sydney's South Pacific Private mental health and addiction facility, on addiction and its impact on families. In the interview Ben indicated that addiction should be considered a brain disease.
Decades of neuroscience research have started to explain how addiction hijacks different parts of the brain, what prompts those behaviours and why they can be so hard to overcome. "This is where the research is heading to define (addiction) as a brain disease - a relapsing condition," Dr Teoh says.
"We're getting to some understanding through neuroscience but there is still no definitive cure for addiction. But we do understand that treating the causes of addiction is beneficial and putting strategies in place for people and families can lead to good outcomes.
He shared that "It's really families that bear the brunt of a loved one's addiction. In treatment. the first thing we do is to support them in their detox and then we get them to look at their situation – to understand how they've ended up like this.”
He continued, "We look at their psychological pathways and their personal life. We also look at their family, not just in terms of their current family but what we call their family of origin; their parents, their siblings. We look at how that has contributed to their addiction." Once a patient’s history is investigated and the layers are peeled back, the next step is to examine family dynamics and how it could be perpetuating the addiction.
"Sometimes the family either collude or they put it up with it despite the person being not functional or well," Dr Teoh says. "It's important for the family to realise the impact this can have, and to support the person to reach out for the help they need." So what's the answer? Put simply, education, information and treatment.
"A lot people don't understand what addiction is - it's not just a matter of will. It's much more than just that. An addict needs professional help. However, it’s also really important that the family members get the help and support they need to help their family to heal. It's far from easy but sometimes people need to confront the situation rather than avoid the problem, despite it being difficult and upsetting."
For further information on South Pacific Private's treatment, education and support programs visit www.southpacificprivate.com.au
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