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"I Sent My Son To Bali For Rehab": The Hidden Cost Of Drug Addiction

$30,000, six months. Why the wait?

"I Sent My Son To Bali For Rehab": The Hidden Cost Of Drug Addiction

The number of Australians seeking help for drug use is booming. Robert would know: his stepson is one of them.

The 26-year-old was fighting an uphill battle against alcohol abuse when his addiction turned darker and he began taking illicit substances.

The Kinglake man says his stepson was willing to enter a program to handle his problems, but actually accessing treatment was another battle entirely. That battle, he says, they had no idea how to fight. It would end thousands of kilometres from where it started, in Bali.

"If you try to get into [a rehabilitation clinic in] Melbourne, you've gotta have health insurance, or you've got to pay somewhere around $30,000, or you've got to wait three to six months.

"When you're in a dark place with substance abuse, how can you wait?"

New figures released on Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveal that about 134,000 Australians received drug treatment in 2015–16, or approximately one in every 180.

Robert's son isn't alone in his fraught relationship with the bottle – according to AIHW, alcohol is still the most common drug our country seeks help for. Liquor makes up about 32% of all cases, down from 46% from five years prior.

SOURCE: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

While treatment for alcoholism dropped, the growth in the number of people seeking help for amphetamine use was an absolutely staggering 175%.

In 2011–12, that number was 16,900. By 2015–16 it had snowballed to 46,400. Men were more likely to access services than women across the board.

There are 129 publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies in Victoria, which Robert says is manifestly inadequate if the average waiting periods are anything to go by. He believes the longer you wait, the riskier it gets for both the user and their family.

"The problem is when they're in that position everybody close to them, they're driving away," he said. "It makes it very difficult because if you don't stand by them they just get worse... But at the same time it can be very hard to stand by them."

There was a breakthrough in Robert's struggle to get his stepson the help he needed when a Melbourne clinic advised them of a sister program in Bali which had a deal on.

"It was $6,500 for 60 days – that can be extended to 90 if the person feels they need it," he said.

He told us that by the time airfares, travel insurance and other incidental costs were added the total came to about $10,000. It's fair to say that for many this is still an unattainable sum, despite being one third of the cost in Australia without health insurance.

His son has been in the clinic for nearly two weeks, and by all accounts is doing "really well". Robert says he sounds like he's in a good place.

When quizzed on whether he had any wisdom to dispense in the wake of his undoubtedly harrowing experience, he spoke just seven words:

"Talk to people. Do whatever you can."

You can read the AIHW report here