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Summary of key learning from Week 1

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Multiethnic group of adults gather to discuss their mental health, addictions, and struggles in a group setting with a professional leading the discussion.

The aim of this course is to introduce healthcare professionals to current addiction ‘hot topics’ arising across the lifespan, from pregnancy and birth, children and adolescents to parents and older people.

This first week focused on learning about different treatment approaches and the health and wellbeing of the person who uses substances. We introduced the philosophies and theories of addiction, from abstinence to harm reduction and recovery, and how they influence international drug treatment policy and service provision.

We learned about the known risk and protective factors including overdose for people who use substances. There is a broad range of risk and protective factors which can include parenting style, people, places, and situations that can influence a person to engage in drug abuse. We know that the more risks a child is exposed to while growing up, the more likely the child will use substances. Some risk factors may be more powerful than others at certain stages in development, such as parents who use substances or peer pressure during the teenage years. While some protective factors, such as a strong parent-child bond, can have a greater impact on reducing risks during the early years.

With regards to the practical aspects of addiction treatment approaches, by the end of this week, you should be able to screen and assess for substance use, have knowledge on how to provide a brief intervention, and how to administer naloxone in an emergency overdose situation.

We learnt that an assessment can simply mean engaging a person in a meaningful conversation about what’s going on in their lives, and that we have to be aware of the many challenges for people who use substances. For example, challenges around legal issues, homelessness, housing, family, and medical and mental health.

Week 1 also presented evidence for conducting brief interventions used to raise awareness and assess a person’s willingness to engage in a conversation about healthy lifestyle choices and/or their mental health.

We presented the true story of Patricia, who is now in her 50s. This case study highlights the complexities that you might come across in your own practice, but it also highlighted the need for trauma informed services. We will learn more about this in Week 2.

Finally, we illustrated how to administer naloxone in an emergency setting, and we discussed the challenges of administering naloxone with Dawn Russell.

In Week 2, we will explore the interventions and treatment for different challenges, from expectant mothers who use substances to children of parents who use drugs, to possible medication misuse among older people and infectious diseases. We will hear from experts on how to advise during pregnancy, how to approach medication management with older clients and how to approach infectious disease treatments.

Before moving on, we’ll use the next step to discuss how you can use what you have learnt so far to help reflect on your own practice.

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Identifying and Responding to Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Healthcare Practice

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