Medical students get an education in addiction treatment

Fresh Start Clinic regularly accepts medical students as part of their required placements and they spend several weeks with the doctors and medical staff, exposing them to the comprehensive and sometimes complex treatment required to effectively treat addiction.

UWA medical student Joseph recently completed his placement at Fresh Start and gave us an insight into his experience.

“During my placement at Fresh Start, I’ve gained an appreciation for the importance of high quality and holistic addiction treatment. I have been able to interact with patients from a variety of backgrounds, and in different stages of their drug addiction treatment journey.

After talking to patients and listening to their stories, I have learned that trauma and chronic stress may make individuals more vulnerable to addictive behaviours, and hence have appreciated the importance of addressing the patient, managing not only the biology, but the psychological and social aspects.

There is often a stigma associated with drug addiction, which can lead to guilt and shame, causing people to hide their addiction and prevent them from getting treatment. It is crucial to treat a patient dealing with substance addiction in the same way as a patient with any other disease and be respectful, compassionate, and caring.

I have learned that addiction is a treatable medical condition, it is not a choice, and patients with drug addiction deserve the same level of care as for any other medical condition. The clinicians at Fresh Start emphasise the importance of evidence-based medical intervention, strong relationships, a stable home life, and empowering patients to take up a responsible role in their community.

I have also learned that drug addiction cannot be cured purely with pharmacotherapy, but effective treatment requires patients’ cooperation and willingness, a support network such as family or friends and participation in counselling.

I have had the privilege to work with and shadow many members of the multidisciplinary team at Fresh Start that provides this care, including general practitioners, addiction specialists, psychiatrists, nurses, and support workers. I aspire to practice medicine as a GP in the future, and I believe that the skills and experience I have gained so far at Fresh Start will be transferrable to my career; I will be equipped to better manage drug and alcohol addiction in the community.”