Addiction Doctor

Reporter: Georgia Main

An Australian Neurology Professor claims to have a world first treatment to cure problem drinkers and gambling addicts and he can even help people addicted to food.

He is the doctor giving people their lives back breaking bad habits and addictions -- from alcohol, food, smoking, drugs and even gambling.

Breaking the cycle has been near impossible for many until now. Neurologist Professor Jon Currie has spent the past 15 years researching how the brain influences addiction. He is the only one in the world to develop a program where medication can actually "switch off" the part of the brain that controls cravings.

Professor Currie said, "It has not really been done overseas, it really has not been done anywhere and what we are finding is it is actually quite easy and that is why we think it will become part of mainstream treatment and it is not just for full blown addicts but for anyone who is having trouble stopping.

Thirty eight year old Michael Phillips battle with alcohol has cost him his career, friendships, family and very nearly his life.

"At my worst I'd drink a slab of beer a day, a hipflask of Jim beam and if I could get hold of 50ml of vodka shots or brandy anything with alcohol in it I'd drink it", said Michael.

Michael was told he had just months to live if he didn't stop drinking. Michael's doctor referred him to Professor Currie to try a radical new treatment program and no one was more surprised than Michael when almost overnight he gave up.

Michael said, "I saw Jon on the Monday lunch time and I haven't drunk since and I have been sober now for 4 month."

"What we are trying to do firstly from the history is work out which bits are not balanced. Then use medicines to try and balance and return towards normal;", Professor Currie.

The medications he uses are normally used to treat other conditions but when combined over time Professor Currie establishes the right dosage to target the problem area in the brain.

Professor Currie said, "We are using epilepsy medications and there is a medicine used for muscle spasms which is fantastic for craving with alcohol. All of these are new uses for old medicines".

It has proven more successful than conventional treatment programs in controlling addictive behaviour.

"In terms of reducing then stopping we get up to rates of 80-90% so 8 or 9 out of 10 can reduce the amount they take and 7 out of 10 people will stop completely", said Professor Currie.

For employment reasons 40 year old former alcoholic David doesn't want to be identified. Under the guidance of Professor Currie he has been sober for 2 years. Once his drinking was under control he was able to tackle another of his addictions - food.

David said, "I've always had a problem with food and of course with binge eating as a way of dealing with my depression also because it's part of my addictive personality.

With the help of Professor Currie, David started to notice results after a month. "I noticed I wasn't craving the foods it meant I could introduce a proper diet for myself. The changes were remarkable", said David.

As for side effects, Doctor Currie said, "The main thing we see in side effects is sleepiness and nausea sometimes but overall very few side effects".

For Psychologist and Expert on Substance abuse Lynne Magor-Blatch treating addiction with medications over-simplifies the issue. "I think the important thing about treating any kind of addiction or dependency is that it is not one size fits all so you often need both medication and also psychological interventions", said Lynne.

It is estimated more than 1,000,000 of us suffer from some form of addiction. Every year nearly 4,000 people die from alcohol and drug abuse while almost 160,000 people are problem gamblers. It is because of this that Professor Currie hopes to extend his program throughout Australia training doctors and health services to help people take back control of their lives.

Doctor Currie said, "It is extraordinary how cheap this actually is. The combination of medicines for people may be less than $1000 a year".