I was recently asked what it’s like to seek help for addiction and in my attempt to answer it, I addressed not only why seeking help is important but also why people don’t.
The struggle of addiction is deeply personal and seeking help normally comes from an act of desperation, from realising that life could be different or from hitting what is commonly called ‘rock-bottom’.
Detoxing from an addiction, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or prescription medicines, is hard. It takes time, energy, effort – hardest of all, it takes desire. There has to be a need to not live with the struggle of addiction anymore – and importantly, a need to live.
The desire, or willingness of an addict to seek help is often ephemeral, so if we miss the window of opportunity to offer and provide help, it could be too late – it’s gone and so to is the hope to live a life that is free from drugs, alcohol or prescription medicines.
New Zealand has a deepening addiction crisis. We have overwhelming growth in drug, alcohol and prescription medicine addiction and it’s only going to get worse. Its estimated that around 1 in 8 New Zealanders have an addiction problem – I estimate its actually 1 in 5, yet only 1.3% of the addicted population access help. This means 628,000 kiwis who need help – aren’t getting it.
Addiction damages lives, it hurts family members, it ruins relationships. People lose their jobs, they lose their houses, they lose their children, and many, lose their lives because of drugs or alcohol.
So, why aren’t more people seeking help?
Denial, shame, fear, stigma are all common reasons. But perhaps the hardest reason for me to grapple with, is the lack of addiction services we offer and the challenges people face in navigating the extremely complex processes and systems that we have.
I know, I’ve been there – I’ve experienced all that New Zealand has to offer, and believe me it’s not enough and it’s hard to access!
When seeking help, addicts are at their most vulnerable. They’re not in a position to be told to wait, to detox on their own, to be drug or alcohol free for six months until they can enter rehab. They want it to happen, and happen now – they’re ready, they’re willing but that window closes very quickly.
New Zealanders are dying. They’re dying because of their addictions and we’re not helping them.
We need to do better, New Zealanders deserve better.