On the frontline fighting alcohol addiction
TODAY is the third and final story in our series The Bittersweet Drink. Over the past two weeks, QT has taken readers into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and their views on alcohol's role in our society. The QT speaks to the team at the forefront of alcohol treatment services in Ipswich.
A SMALL team in the Ipswich Health Plaza on Bell St are the front of the city's public alcohol and drug treatment services.
Anywhere from 50 to 80 people a month will seek the help of Alcohol And Other Drugs Services primarily because of their drinking.
Alcohol remains the most prevalent drug the team treats across all its patients - whether they also take other drugs or not.
"It's because it is freely available, it's cheap," AODS team leader David Kaczmarek said.
"It's easy to get."
Mr Kaczmarek said people presented at the voluntary service for a number of reasons.
They themselves might have recognised the problem, and want to find a way to end it. Perhaps there has been a moment, an incident, which has forced them to ask for help.
Maybe their family or friends might have urged them to get formal treatment. Mr Kaczmarek said it happened often enough to be noted, but it was also one of the least effective ways into treatment because the sufferer themselves were not leading it.
Some of them will have visited their GP for a referral, or been referred by a government agency such as Corrective Services or Department of Child Safety.
A few will see Mr Kaczmarek and his team because harms caused by alcohol have forced them into hospital.
"There is the acute and there is the chronic," Mr Kaczmarek said. "There are so many reasons people enter the health system because of alcohol."
Acute issues are those that cause immediate problems - think binge drinking that ends in a trip to the emergency department.
Chronic issues affect those who have a serious, ongoing dependency.
"Liver cirrhosis, associated brain injuries...there's a whole gamut of physical side effects over time," Mr Kaczmarek.
Anyone looking for rehabilitation or detox services in Ipswich will have trouble finding it.
There are no stand-alone detox centres, though people can go through detox in hospital if they are admitted for another health problem. They can also sometimes be taken through a detox by their GP.
The only rehabilitation centre in the city is a four-bed unit for men operating on Ipswich Hospital grounds.
People are instead referred to detox and rehabilitation centres in Brisbane and Logan.
Mr Kaczmarek said Ipswich would benefit from its own detox centre. But the thing he believed would make the biggest impact on the harms caused by excessive drinking was education.
"I think that is the single greatest thing that over time is going to reduce direct harms," he said.
"The effects are really quite daunting when you look at the statistics."
Mr Kaczmarek said a 2010 study found alcohol-related harm cost Australia $36 billion that year.
And the problem was made worse by massive changes in the way people use drugs over the past few years, including alcohol.
"Generally people used one drug or another," Mr Kaczmarek said. "Everyone was fairly compartmentalised in what they used.
"But the trend over probably the past five years is poly-drug use.
"Everybody is using everything, which makes the clinical picture a lot harder to treat and manage.
"The outcomes for individuals are usually a lot worse."
Missed parts one and two in our special series? Head to qt.com.au to read the rest of The Bittersweet Drink.