Addicted Australia is a bold, revelatory and inspiring documentary that puts a spotlight on Australia’s addiction crisis in the most powerful and deeply personal way.
In a television first, the four-part series, produced by Blackfella Films, provides unprecedented access to ten Australians and their families as they battle addiction. Signed up to a unique six-month treatment program, we follow their heart-wrenching journey from despair to hope and possible recovery.
“I don’t look like a drug addict, so I've been told. I don't know what one looks like, really, because I'm one, so they look like me.” – Sarah
Watch a preview here or scroll down to watch episode one.
Around one in 20 Australians struggle with a substance use problem or addiction each year*, but only one in four seek help**. For the past five years, 31-year-old student, administrator and performing artist Heidi has kept her addiction a secret, concealing her drinking from friends, family and colleagues. “Essentially, I'm an alcoholic and I can’t tell anyone. I think if I said to people that I drink in the morning, I drink at work and I drink when I get home, it wouldn’t make sense, because it doesn't make sense. There’s this idea that if you’re addicted to whatever it is, you're to be ashamed. So, I don’t say anything,” she says during the treatment program.
“Addiction is one of the most stigmatised of all health conditions,” says Professor Dan Lubman, Turning Point Executive Clinical Director. Turning Point developed the targeted treatment program for these ten Australians. “The accompanying shame and stigma can result in a delay of up to 20 years from when somebody starts developing a problem with alcohol, drugs or gambling before they seek help.”
For the past few years, Sarah has been smoking crystal methamphetamine or ‘ice’. “I don’t look like a drug addict, so I've been told. I don't know what one looks like, really, because I'm one, so they look like me.”
Life wasn’t always like this for Sarah. The 41-year-old lived in an expensive property, was married and had dreams of starting a family. But after seven rounds of failed IVF treatment, that dream was lost. Sarah’s marriage began to fall apart, and she entered into a deep depression. She turned to ice to help overcome her despair. Now living with her mum June, the pair are determined to end the cycle.
Australians are the world’s most prolific gamblers based on per capita spending***. Every pay day for nine years, Lucas has gambled away his wages. The 38-year-old IT support analyst doesn’t bet to win, but to lose. It’s the only time the anxiety ebbs away and he can try and face life. He’s tried to self-exclude from venues and online betting sites, but believes the system is designed to entrap people like him in a vicious cycle.
The son of a mother who also had a gambling problem, Lucas has reached a point where he fears becoming homeless, losing contact with his children and having nothing left. Finally, he has the opportunity to commit to a treatment program that is taking a holistic approach and is there to support him for the long-term.
Twenty-six-year-old student and waitress Jess comes from a loving family and a stable home. She appears to challenge the thinking that addiction stems from obvious trauma. But Jess's struggle with an eating disorder provided the grounding for her alcohol addiction to take hold and she found herself at rock bottom, unable to stop. Jess joins the program having recently completed a week-long detox and short stay rehab. She’s well aware that, as for so many, maintaining sobriety is one of the toughest challenges of all.
The first thing Ruben’s mum does each morning is check that her son is still alive. For more than 20 years, the 47-year-old has used heroin. For most of that time, Ruben was a ‘high-functioning’ user, working six days a week and enjoying time with his son. But for the past six or so years, his use has become uncontrollable. Ruben’s addiction escalated after he was the victim of a vicious armed robbery while working as a store manager. Suffering from acute PTSD and unable to return to work, he found some solace in drugs. He’s already attempted treatment five times, but now living with his mum and sister, the family are determined that this is the time Ruben finally finds a way to stop.
Dawn started drinking aged 13. Now 62, the retired executive assistant wants to stop. But after almost half a century that’s easier said than done. Soon to become a grandmother for the first time, Dawn’s fearful her daughter may not allow her to be involved in caring for the child if she’s still drinking. She’s never been more motivated to get well.
Addicted Australia lays bare the challenges faced by families and their loved ones who are searching for a different life. We see them in their everyday environments and witness firsthand the reality of the recovery journey; the highs and the lows.
These are just some of the authentic and nuanced stories of addiction explored throughout the documentary series. By opening this space, Addicted Australia aims to provide all Australians with a deeper understanding of addiction and recovery, reduce stigma and stereotype and spark a national conversation. By showing what addiction and treatment can look like, it also aims to encourage others to seek support.
Addicted Australia is a Blackfella Films production for SBS. Principal production funding from SBS in association with Screen Australia and financed with support from Film Victoria.
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For more information: sbs.com.au/AddictedAustralia