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In Australian culture, drinking alcohol to celebrate or socialise is an accepted and everyday practice. It might even turn you in to the best comedian Australia's ever seen. But for some, drinking alcohol in moderation is just not possible.

    According to the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey, alcohol abuse affects one in five people in our community and puts the lives of others at risk.

   Interestingly, South Pacific Private (SPP) in Curl Curl has seen a 25 per cent growth in the over-55's seeking help for alcohol abuse, by which time other factions of their life has started to fall apart.

         “People addicted to alcohol have usually been

          Struggling for a long time before they reach out,”

says Claire Barber, general manager at South Pacific Private.

    “Very often there are a lot of negative consequences that have stacked up by that time, and they can be physical, mental or social - or all three.

"Their family will usually be in crisis by the time they reach us and they may have legal and social issues like DUIs, or concerns at work around their performances.

    "Because It's such a long-term situation all those things have mounted - maybe they've lost their job, their partner Is about to leave, or they've got significant health problems, They're usually at the point that they need things to change, but can't do It themselves.

     “Andrea, a high-earning professional and local mum-of-three, tells Peninsula Living she found herself in this exact situation earlier this year.

     For the best part of her life she'd enjoy a few glasses of wine on an evening with her husband of 20 years and when he died suddenly two years ago she was bereft.

    Six months later she was made redundant, and hit the bottle.

      “I began to wonder, 'is this it?'" she tells this magazine. 'I suffered from depression and suddenly all these sad memories of my childhood would come flooding to the surface.

  “I’d open a bottle of wine mid-afternoon and would be sozzled before it was even dark. “ When friends or family raised concerns, she'd blame it on” not eating, or the effects of my HRT on an empty stomach".

    Andrea's worried children started 'dropping in' during the day, and even though she smelt of alcohol, Andrea still denied she had a problem.

    When she crashed her car under the influence in March her kids staged an intervention, “and gave me an ultimatum: to sort myself out or lose them.”

     She checked into South Pacific Private, and Claire Barber says Andrea's story is a common one at the clinic, which treats people with addictions from the age of 18.

       "Far and away, alcohol is the biggest issue we treat,"

  she explains,” and in the last year there's been a real growth in clients 55+. We're seeing a growth of about 25 per cent in that age group which is huge.

"People take a long time to seek treatment - the national average is 18 years - and if you think about that compared to any number of diseases, it's scary. You wouldn't take that long to get a potential disease checked out."

    Meanwhile Belinda Volkov, senior counsellor at Manly Drug Education & Counselling Centre (MDECC) - a free service that counsels and supports young people between the ages of 14-25 - says their most presenting substance use disorder (SUD) is cannabis.

      "It's the most widely used illicit drug," she reveals. "Alcohol is the biggest killer of drug use in young people, but we see more young people addicted to pot."

• In 2015 nearly a quarter of all South Pacific Private’s admission the 50+ age range had a problem with alcohol

• For every one person affected by their own addiction an additional two family members are affected

• At MDECC the families of adolescents/young adults are often the first people presenting for treatment due to the impact the drug use is having on the family

• The consumption of alcohol was estimated to cost Australian society $15.3 billion, in 2004-05 (Collins & Lapsley 2008a)

• The social cost of illicit drug use in Australia has been estimated at $8.2 billion in 2004-05, including costs associated with crime, lost productivity and healthcare (AIWH 2010)

• Earlier this year police seized almost $750,000 in cash, 2kg of synthetic cannabis, cannabis seeds, cannabis and LSD at properties in Dee Why, Manly and Brookvale

What are the signs of alcohol/drug addiction?

Increasing tolerance

Impaired control - lacking the ability to limit the amount that you drink/consume, even when you have made a conscious decision to restrict your intake

Physical dependence - experiencing intense cravings, and withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakes, and anxiety when you stop

Denial - refusing to face the reality of the problematic Impact that the continuing use of alcohol/drug is having on your life

She claims there are many reasons youngsters start on cannabis, often because It's more accessible than alcohol if they're under 18, and is usually fun when smoked within a group of friends.

    “It can be from boredom, Intergenerational or lack of access to employment and services,”she says, “and it has conflicting messages. There's an adult credibility crisis, as parents say smoking today's pot is dangerous, yet the kids see It's legal in Los Angeles.”

   She says MDECC regularly fields calls from worried parents, panicking that their kids are smoking pot and will end up homeless, addicted to Ice in Kings Cross.

     “But that's alarmist" she adds. “They're nowhere near that. The longer people hold off initiation, the less chance there is of becoming dependent.

     “The reality is. most grow out of It and survive. But if they don't, help is available.”

For the past few years MDECC have held six-week courses to educate and support parents of children who are abusing drugs and alcohol three times a year, but due to rising demand they're already on their fifth one this year.

     "We're heavily involved in the “Be a parent not a mate' campaign, for people buying alcohol for their kids,” she adds.

  “One of the best things we can do is not buy them alcohol under the age of 18 as research shows the longer people hold off initiation the less chance there is of becoming dependent.

    "People are always looking for a simplistic answer to a complex formula - but why people start using substances is very different to why they continue to use them."

   Interestingly, MDECC - which has just been shortlisted for Excellence In Treatment Award through NADA (Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies) - is also seeing a much greater ageing injecting population.

“It’s predominantly heroin,” she adds, but some have switched over to injecting methamphetamine. The reason they're ageing is that they're staying alive longer due to being treated with medication and things like methadone.

  Because many of these intravenous addicts are also mixing substances with high levels of alcohol they're also becoming physically becoming ill with things like with liver cirrhosis, hepatitis C and other health problems.

Beachwood, South Private Pacific's new sober living house in Curl Curl, is one of the first sober living facilities in Australia to be attached to an addiction treatment centre and will be at the forefront of dealing with the growing issue of drug and alcohol abuse in our area.

   Dr Teoh, SPP's medical superintendent says it will transform the lives of people on the northern beaches and north shore whose lives have been destroyed by addiction and mental health issues.

   It treats addiction to alcohol ice, heroin, cocaine, prescription medication and gambling, amongst others, and specialises in dual diagnosis, i.e. mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

  “The disease of alcoholism is far more complex than lust the behaviour of drinking too much," adds Dr Teoh. “Most people with addiction suffer from some kind of mental trauma, often from their childhood.

"Recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction is likely to be more successful when coexisting issues, underlying causes and environmental factors are addressed at the same time as you stop drinking.

   “And the earlier people seek treatment the better outcome it is for all.”





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