Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge Conference Energy Events Centre, Rotorua (Sept 12-15)
13 September 2018
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The need for connection - to people, to cultural and spiritual identity, to community, and to appropriate health care is pivotal in recovery from addiction. This is a common thread among both international and local speakers at the 2018 DAPAANZ (Addiction Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa New Zealand), Cutting Edge addictions conference which opens today (Wednesday September, 12) at the Energy Events Centre, Rotorua.
The annual Te Toka Tu Moana – Cutting Edge conference is New Zealand’s key addiction treatment gathering. Those attending work in a range of roles, or have an interest in, mental health and addiction treatment and the implications of the social and cultural roots of addiction.
This year’s theme is, 'It’s all about connection.'
“Humans are social beings and the essence and meaning in our lives is found in the connections we share with each other, with our family/whanau members and within our communities,” says DAPAANZ Executive Director, Sue Paton.
“These relationships have the power to build us up or to tear us down and the roots of addiction are frequently found in the disruption or breakdown of important relationships – often early in life.
Those of us working with people affected by addiction offer hope by supporting them to strengthen their connections. Whether it’s connection to whanau, culture, spirituality, pro-social community activities, or a deeper connection to self, we help people uncover a multitude of positive opportunities in their recovery journey.”
She says that the variety of speakers and topics covered in his years Te Toka Tu Moana – Cutting Edge conference reflects the fact that addiction is an urgent issue that affects all sectors of our society.
“Addiction requires a wide range of, compassionate, health orientated responses including harm reduction, early intervention, peer support and community and residential services.
“Drug abuse is a health issue and resourcing it appropriately greatly reduces harm,” she says.
Keynote speaker, Johann Hari, the New York Times best-selling author of Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, says that emerging science proves addiction isn’t actually caused by drugs, but by conditions of social isolation and pain.
“Addiction isn’t the result of a moral failing or depravity, or the inevitable result of a chemical dependency, but a product of our social environments. This means we need to pursue a radically different approach to addicts, abandoning conventional cycles of shame, stigma, and punishment, and instead adopt greater capacities of compassion.”
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection,” he says.
Jenny Valentish, journalist and author of Woman of Substances- A Journey into Addiction and Treatment is speaking to the conference about the female experience of drugs and alcohol and the early predictors of addiction, such as childhood trauma and temperament, and teenage impulsivity.
Drawing on the expertise of 30 leading researchers and clinicians, as well as the latest findings in the field of neuroscience, she explains why other maladaptive coping strategies – such as eating disorders, self-harm, compulsive buying and high-risk sex – are frequently interchangeable with the female experience of problematic substance use.
Jenny is a consultant for Australia’s National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, an ambassador for Monash University’s Brain & Mental Health Laboratory. She is also a board member of SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training, Australia. SMART supports people grappling with addictions of all kinds, to help themselves with the assistance of professionals and trained peers.
Jenny is pro harm-minimisation, with abstinence at one end of the scale and safer use at the other.
“Pathways into problematic substance use are highly individual, and pathways out should be flexible to acknowledge that,” she says.
“To simply label someone an addict or alcoholic without taking into consideration the psychological and environmental factors driving their use means that their underlying problems are still not being heard and understood.”
Chairman of Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua, Tamati Kruger, says that the effect of addiction on Maori and Tuhoe is well documented and despised.
"We wish to 'mend' this sorry situation collaboratively, and in a Tuhoe way, through self-determination – an idea that moves towards self-responsibility and sufficiency instead of dependency," he says.
Tamati Kruger’s presentation, "The Mending Room", takes an in depth, holistic and strategic approach to the ways Maori can effectively heal from the ill effects of all forms of addictions. He specifically discusses Tuhoe society, its organisational structure and the health and welfare status of its people. He considers the practical implications that the different approaches to health and welfare adopted by iwi and the Crown have had on the wellbeing of Maori.