Social Exclusion and Addiction: “Creating a Sense of Belonging”

Social Exclusion and Addiction: “Creating a Sense of Belonging”

The negative effects of social exclusion and isolation caused by substance addiction and methods of combating these effects by developing hope and new sense of purpose. 

Author: Mr David Peters, Mental Health Carers NSW.

People do not recover from addiction in isolation. Recovery is often closely related to social inclusion and being able to undertake personally fulfilling social roles within local communities. Hope is fundamental to recovery and can be heightened by each person having a more dynamic sense of control over their lives (Manchester Health, 2015). In attempting recovery, a person needs to cultivate and nurture a new purpose in life, one that may replace the previous purpose of a substance-related lifestyle, thus developing hope for the future.

This paper aims to outline the link between addiction and social exclusion and discuss the negative effects of social exclusion caused by addiction. The paper also contains evidence-based observations that were recorded from a semi-structured group of people at risk of homelessness, in which alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and mental health issues are prevalent. The aim of this group was to inspire a sense of belonging into a community, hence attempting to create a new sense of purpose in each participant’s life. The purpose of the group is to encourage participation, inclusion and lessen the effects of isolation. The objective of the research undertaken was to ascertain whether providing inclusiveness and a sense of belonging within a community could decrease the rate of intoxication and subsequent behaviours.

This program is semi-structured and has a primary group of 20 participants who attend each week. Many of the participants from the beginning stages of this program reported having “no sense of hope” and “a feeling of no purpose” (personal communications, 2014). At the beginning of the program, there was a high rate of intoxication within the general cohort who attended each week. From personal observations of the behaviours within the group, the rate of intoxication significantly decreased from almost 50% at the beginning to an average of less than one person per week within 18 months. At the same time, the participation rate increased, in terms of volunteering and a sense of ownership in the group. The data indicates that the more each person felt included in the group and part of the community, less instances of intoxication occurred. It can therefore be argued the key to combatting addiction lies not in the pursuit of sobriety, rather it is in social connection.

The full paper is available via the Addiction 2016 Conference here:


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