Scientific Event

Understanding addictions

Parallel lecture (P4)

Prof. Jean-Félix SAVARY

Addiction is not a disease “per se”, but can be seen as a strategy by default that some people use to address difficulties in their emotional life and relations with others. It is not unusual that when life is tough, psychoactive products can be used as a temporary solution to cope with the pain. The problem is that with time, a trouble can develop into a mental health issue, rooted in our biology and environment. Therefore, people with addiction behaviour are overrepresented in context of mental health of poverty, posing challenges to those who are on the front line.
From the outside, some behaviour can be seen as not rational and we may be tempted to “help” by telling them what to do. With time, we have learned that it is important not to judge people with addiction, as this can only reinforce the stigma and the shame people can feel. A constructive posture is to welcome the person as he/she is, in the course of their life and to prevent any judgement. This attitude is rooted in the human rights paradigm and gives the ability to the person to regain control of his/her life.
Today, addiction is everywhere. From social media to gambling, there is plenty of opportunity to engage in such behaviour. Though it is not always bad, it tends to fuel our capacity to cope with stress and lack of social contacts. This vision changes the understanding we should have on what addiction is and how the social context plays a key role in the process. How should we see addiction and how to address it? The talk will propose a broader look into addiction that enables us to overcome the moralistic vision on it, and better welcome the person where he/she is. We will look at addiction in an ecological perspective, based on the Swiss drug policy, the internet and expertise of professionals.

Day 2


19 October

14.30 - 15.30 Parallel Lectures
  • Code: P4
  • Duration: 60 min
  • Language: English
  • Translations: German - French

Prof. Jean-Félix SAVARY  

Jean-Félix Savary is the director of the University of the Geneva School of Social Work since 2022. As former secretary general of GREA (Swiss professional nerworks on addiction), he has been active in the addiction field for nearly 20 years, as an advocate for humane and effective addictions policies, rooted in human rights. His main interest are mental health, addictions and human rights. and the analysis of public policies.