Alcohol and drug clinician Sabien Blazek is leading a successful early intervention service for mild to moderate alcohol and cannabis users in Nelson. Photo: Kate Russell.

Stopping addiction before it starts

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A pilot programme aiming to stop alcohol and cannabis addiction before it gets too serious is proving successful in Nelson.

Nelson Bays Primary Health began funding the service at the Victory Community Centre last March to “fill a gap” in the community, and it has been renewed for another year due to the level of response.

“The demand is there,” says the driver of the service, Sabien Blazek.

“We’re so used to focussing on people at the high end of the spectrum, but the idea with this is to prevent people from having a more severe problem.”

The early intervention programme aims to provide guidance and education for mild to moderate alcohol and cannabis users over the age of 25 through four free sessions.

“People are either referred to me, or they self-refer. For example, I get people who call in concerned about their use of alcohol and need support to either cut back or stop.”

The current guidelines for women are no more than 10 standard drinks per week, and 15 for men and Sabien says once people know this, they find it easier to make a change.

“There is a stigma associated with alcohol – it’s seen as a moral issue, but it’s really a health issue. But I feel the awareness is increasing.”

The service is also based at the Tahunanui Community Centre once a week and visits GPs and workplaces.

Sabien says she hopes she can reach more people this way.

According to Nelson Marlborough Health, 4.6 per cent of all presentations to Nelson ED in the past eight months have been due to alcohol consumption.

This spiked over the new year period with 232 admissions in December and January combined.

“The objective is to provide an accessible service to anybody in the Nelson or Richmond. Being in a community centre is quite unique as it’s a clinical role, but I think it’s less intimidating for people.”

For more information, contact Sabien at [email protected]