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Violence, Criminality and Addiction all related

Violence, Criminality and Addiction all related

2 September 2011

A psychotherapist who grew up in violence-torn Belfast says men who have violent, criminal and addictive traits should not be seen as having separate disorders or syndromes. Instead they are often linked conditions that result from survival strategies developed during childhood.

Seán Manning of Moana House Therapeutic Community told the Cutting Edge Addiction Treatment Conference in Auckland today that people who have had dysfunctional upbringings are less socially attuned and often self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or display behaviour that violates the rights of others.

“There are close relationships between substance abuse, addiction, criminality and childhood trauma or neglect. Quite simply, the great majority of people in prisons have had awful childhoods.

“Criminal behaviour and substance abuse do not usually occur in people for no reason. The common view may be that alcohol and drug misuse ‘cause’ crime but I'm suggesting that both alcohol and drug issues and crime are caused by ‘third’ factors, which are developmental and involve failure in learning how to relate to others.”

Mr Manning said this has significant implications for the way we approach drug and alcohol treatment.

“We make a mistake when we send a person to one place to deal with their addiction, another to manage their violence, another to account for their criminality and another to deal with their diagnosed mental illness.

“Airlines and banks manage to have one service deal with all the consumer's needs – so why do health services insist on such a ridiculously mechanistic approach when the issues are clearly related to each other?

“It is inefficient and expensive; and fails to recognise that the consumer is a single person. Treating him like an object whose parts can be dismantled leads to contradictory approaches to treatment and produces workers who are narrowly skilled.

“Consumers of treatment often become disdainful of professionals as a result, and probably rightly so.”

Mr Manning said the antidote is an approach that focuses on relationships as a major factor in producing change, such as the therapeutic community model which tends to produce results that continue to improve after treatment finishes.

Cutting Edge is an annual nationwide addiction treatment conference, covering alcohol, other drugs, problem gambling and smoking cessation. It is being held at the Rendezvous Hotel 1-2 September, with around 400 participants.

For more information about Cutting Edge visit


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