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Home > Opinion: Addiction is often boiled down to sound bites – but the truth is complex.

[] , Duffin, Tony Opinion: Addiction is often boiled down to sound bites – but the truth is complex. (31 Aug 2014)

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Addiction has again been in the public spotlight recently. A number of media outlets have focused on public drug use in Dublin city centre. There has also been large gatherings of concerned residents in Roscrea, who are demanding action be taken in relation to the issues that the town is facing in relation to drugs and drug use.

Coverage of addiction related issues often appear during the summer months. This is unsurprising – issues like public drug use and unsafe disposal of drug paraphernalia are particularly relevant during periods when our cities and towns are filled with tourists. Similarly, there is a human interest element to stories of drug use; such stories are emotive, and can make for simple sound bites. However, it’s important to have a balanced view. What’s generally lacking in the discourse is some reflection on how addiction impacts on the individual; what their experience is when trying to get help; and what works when trying to help the many people in the throes of addiction.

Consider the position of John (not his real name), an Ana Liffey service user outside Dublin. After using heroin in his youth, John managed to stop using and worked in the construction industry for 20 years. In his early 40s and after a relationship breakup, he started using drugs again. Eventually he started using heroin, which he has been doing for the last 15 years. He started injecting about three years ago. It has taken its toll on him both physically and psychologically. He accepts that people need to take responsibility for their behaviours and that people are at different levels of accepting this responsibility. He is thankful for having support from some services available. However, he also feels that people need more support from services than punishment and he feels that ‘when people are down, they seem to be kicked’, which doesn’t help them get back up.....

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