Why peer support?

How important is the society’s role for substance abusers? How can one control themselves and receive help to stop their bad behaviour when they abuse illegal drugs and alcohol?

It is a difficult dynamic when substance abusers, whether heavily or not, are in a rather marginalised state in society. People who do not consume drugs or alcohol may perhaps perceive those who do, to be violent, intimidating or worth something less. On the other hand, those who abuse substances may perceive their own worlds as different, as them not belonging in society. This causes cases in which peer support is a much needed tool in rehabilitation.

It is safe to say that peer support is a great tool for anyone. It offers empathy, sympathy, someone to rely on, and a staggering chance in an improvement in ones’ path. Peer supporters act as mentors and guide one to reach their goals in life. Cognitive neuroscientist Trevor Robbins of the University of Cambridge explained addiction in terms of a transition from voluntary to habit-based behaviour; the drug user gradually loses the ability to control their substance use. This compulsivity leads to persistent and inappropriate actions that bear no obvious relationship to their life goals. It is important for one who seeks the help of peer support to be of great need as a mentor towards one’s goals in life. These can even be small goals, but goals that enhance ones’ chances in rehabilitation.

My group and I held a project at A-Kilta, Vantaa. It is a low threshold organisation that offers services and weekly activities for free to its clients. It is initially intended for substance abuse rehabilitators to be in a safe and trustworthy environment where they can receive peer support. What I really like about the organisation is that the support provided could be for people who have problems solving their financial issues, or even to help clear one’s difficulties with education and work struggles. For substance abuse users, including alcohol abusers, the activities offered are a great way of getting one’s mind off of their impulsive behaviour of abusing. Many users don’t know what it’s like to be without consuming anything, or what it feels like to be sober. This could be especially present within those who have started using at an early teenage age – once recreationally and later on a daily basis.

There was nothing to wake up to in the mornings

I spoke to one of the clients of A-Kilta when we were implementing our project. This client had told me that they had abused alcohol and drugs for 10 years due to the lack of any life goals. “There was nothing to wake up to in the mornings”, “Now I have goals, I want to run the marathon in 2020 and continue to live in a healthy manner”. The client had told me that there were many moments in which rehabilitation was an option and that the deep end had come pretty close. Unfortunately, there were no means to rehabilitate due to the lack of empathy. Once stumbling upon a person who was able to provide good peer support and the right equipment for help, the substance abuse stopped. Now the client of A-kilta, is studying in order to reach the goal of becoming a mentor themselves.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of peer support is “when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other”. It is a tool provided within mental illness, the youth sector, and anywhere in between. The entire concept of the matter is to support those who are in need and establish something great that the user can hold onto when taking after themselves!


Vantaan A-Kilta ry, No date. http://www.vantaan-a-kilta.fi/

Costandi, M. (2015). How Should Society Treat Addiction. https://www.dana.org/article/how-should-society-treat-addiction/

Wikipedia. (2019). Peer Support https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_support

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3 ajatusta aiheesta “Why peer support?”

  1. Good to share about this topic. Peer support is important and used a lot when dealing with substance abuse. Personally I think it’s an easy and a cheap way to provide services for addicts and more individualized care should be available. Peer support is a great tool of care, but should not be the only one. Usually people struggling with addiction have other problems as well, such as depression etc. which require different kinds of care. Of course for many, peer support groups are the way to sobriety. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Thanks Yasmin for your post. It had a real human dimension and a great message: that peer support is practical and really valuable. Your post was informed by your project experience which gave it weight and credibility.