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Demystifying Addiction – an online educational resource

Wednesday 6 March 2013 8:04am

spilled pillsA new, free, online educational resource has been developed by health researchers from the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice in Wellington for learning about addiction directly from people who have experienced it.

The site has interviews with New Zealanders who developed alcohol and other drug problems, but are now living full, happy and productive lives.

“The resource is primarily intended to help medical students and health professionals understand the psychological, social and cultural drivers of addiction,” researcher Rachel Tester explains, “so that they feel better equipped to help those in need.”

“We also hope that it’ll be a useful learning tool for anyone with an interest in recovery from addiction.”

By providing access to personal stories, the resource aims to help students develop a broader understanding of addiction and an empathetic, non-judgmental approach to sensitive topics such as substance abuse.

It also aims to help improve consultation competence and confidence in initiating alcohol and other drug (AOD) discussions, exploring problematic use and supporting behaviour change.

In the pilot study developed by Rachel Tester, Dr Helen Moriarty, Dr Maria Stubbe and funded by AkoAotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, a small number of people who have experienced alcohol and other drug addiction were interviewed. The interviews cover what motivated them to change, what recovery means for them and what helped or hindered them in that process.

Five overarching themes are identified and have been illustrated in the online resource with selected video clips and corresponding transcripts. The broad theme titles are ‘Personal’, ‘Recovery’, ‘Health Professionals’, ‘Trauma’ and ‘Mental Illness’ and include sub-themes such as what does and does not help.

“The resource includes an exercise for students to critically self-reflect on their attitudes towards addiction and current practice, and a survey for user feedback. This’ll be used to inform a larger research project in which a wider sample of people will be interviewed.”
The resource is available on the AkoAotearoa website: