Drink, drugs and gambling: how the growing problem of addiction is taking its toll on our community

Aine Wilson

Aine Wilson from the ‘Steps to Work’ programme who has helped people from various backgrounds and situations

AINE Wilson, from Roslea,  is a counsellor specialising in addiction and family support.

Working from home, she see clients who have one or more of the three primary addictions, alcohol, drugs and gambling.


Private practice is for a new venture for her, but she is now in her fifth year of this type of work, having made a career-changing decision to help others through her own experience of living with addiction.

She has worked with the Columban community in Derry, with a treatment centre in Donegal, and in the Aiseriri centre in Wexford.

Today, she also does work with Nexus in Enniskillen, counselling adult survivors of sexual abuse, and with New Horizon.

The scope of addiction in society today, and its impact, make for stark reading.

A drugs addict could end their days in the high security unit of a psychiatric hospital, and an alcholic could develop ‘a ‘wet’ brain, a condition that is irrecoverable.

So, what of gambling addiction?

“It’s a huge, huge problem. It’s the fastest growing addiction in society”, Aine explained.


“In fact, it’s estimated that 20 per cent of those who join Gamblers Anonymous are women, and it’s all because of bingo, TV advertising and betting on line.

“An addiction can clean out a family, through stress and money-wise, having to pay bills for people with an addiction, and it can lead to family break-up.

“And, it can kill.”

But, help is available, freely within the health service, and from private practices, such Aine’s.

“When I was in Derry, I hadn’t enough time to see people, the only difference now is that the project I was involved with in Derry was funded whereas clients have to pay to see me.”

“It is a big problem because you have family members who are living with people with these addictions, they don’t have the money to spare, and you can understand that.

“Hospitals are very public, and people with an addiction don’t want to be seen going there. It’s the ‘shame’ factor. Indeed, people will come to you from a different county.”

As a ‘compromise’, she runs a very successful education programme on addiction which is a stepping stone for people to be pointed in the right direction  – Al Anon, AA, Gamblers Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

At the end of the day, the secret for a counsellor is to break the link.

“People with an addiction have very little self-worth, so you have to build them up, to convince them they are worth more than the lives they are chained to.”

But, parents, and adults generally, could do more to safeguard their young.

“House drinking is a huge, huge problem because there are no measures.

“We are a society that celebrate everything.

“For instance, when people die, where does everyone go to? To the pub for a drink.”

For all that, she is a contented in her job: “I love my work. It isn’t about money. If I could do this work for free, I would, but you have to make a living.”

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