Lives of Substance

Kate Holden1257-13mbIn 2014 Curtin University’s Social Studies of Addiction Concepts (SSAC) research team began work on an innovative project that would underpin Australia’s first dedicated web site presenting personal experiences of people who consider themselves to have an alcohol or other drug addiction, dependence or habit. The groundbreaking Lives of Substance website offers new perspectives on people often dismissed or stigmatised as dysfunctional, dangerous or sick. Australian author Kate Holden has some experience of these reactions, and has written about them and about everyday life as a drug user in her highly praised memoir, In My Skin. SSAC is very pleased that Kate has agreed to introduce the web site. As Kate explains:

This initiative is very worthwhile and overdue. I am all in favour of anything that de-mystifies drug users, and admits that they are not really ‘they’ but ‘us’.

Launching in October this year, Lives of Substance presents individual stories, as well as key topics, via audio clips, re-enacted video clips and text extracts. The SSAC team hopes it will lend support to people who use drugs, inform visitors about the very many different life experiences, aspirations and plans of people who use drugs, and act as a resource and tool for professionals aiming to enhance their understanding of these issues and the people affected by them.

As project leader Professor Suzanne Fraser puts it:

Drug use and addiction receive an enormous amount of media attention but most coverage tends to focus on extreme circumstances or is guided by common fears and misconceptions about people who use drugs, and addiction. Australians need a broad, reliable and informed resource to turn to that can inform them about the many ways people live with drug dependence, how they cope and even thrive, and the challenges they face, including stigma and misunderstanding. This is our goal in creating Lives of Substance.

Funded by an ARC Discovery grant, the project will conclude in early 2017. For more information about the study and to subscribe to a list for information about forthcoming project-related events, contact Dr Kiran Pienaar, project research associate: