Mark Burdick's blogpost on expats and addiction

Expats and addiction

Are expats more susceptible to addiction? 

July 2017

Mark Burdick

by Dr. Mark Burdick
International Expert Mental Health & Education Consultant
American Psychologist


My answer is a qualified, “yes” for the following reasons: isolation, distance from historic and family relationships, lack of orientation or unfamiliarity with places, lack of access to resources such as doctors and other health practitioners (chiropractors, spiritual care, etc.) and lack of meaningful relationships within a foreign-feeling place. 

For all of these reasons expats are more likely to turn to substances, like drinking or prescription drugs.

What qualifies me as an expert?

I have two types of experiences that qualify me as an expert. First, life experience. Once upon a time my family moved to Dubai. My father worked for an international oil company, which required him to make a move that my mother was never truly in favor of doing. I would visit them in their expat enclave during holidays from private boarding school in Europe. I saw their group of friends drinking a lot, and later dying from alcohol related illness. Another type of experience is my international professional experience. I live and work as the American Psychologist here in The Netherlands and in the UK with many expats who suffer from the illness of addiction, or related mental pain. 

What I saw as an expat family member is now what I commonly see as a professional working with communities of expats: lack of meaningful relational activities and lack of access to help, makes people more susceptible to drinking and using drugs such as prescription medications. It affects their health, relationships with partners, family members and friends. Unfortunately, the amount of abuse is profound. 

Expats and addiction

If you are concerned for yourself or a family member, ask the following questions: 

  1. Do I (does he/she) have the genetic background for abusing drugs and alcohol? 
  2. Am I concerned, or do I see others concerned about the amount that I'm (he/she is) drinking, or the amount of drugs I am (he/she is) smoking or abusing (such as prescription medication)?
  3. Do I suffer mentally, physically, or spiritually from depression, panic, anxiety, or trauma? 
  4. Do I feel isolated, as if there's no way out, or feel otherwise disconnected?
  5. Do I have recurring thoughts of the past or about the future and feel that I can’t share these thoughts?
  6. Am I afraid that I will hurt myself (or someone else)? 

If you answered YES to any one of these questions, then you, your family member, your friend is ‘at risk’, and needs help.

Where do you find help? 

Seek out a psychologist or mental health provider to assist in an evaluation. Guidance comes out of an evaluation, and sometimes provides insightful information beyond instinct. Certainly your general physician can provide a referral, if one is needed for domestic insurance and to access a health care provider or rehabilitation program.

Triora is one place to certainly consider to see if it’s a fit. I also refer some patients to Triora for specific reasons. I would be happy to speak with you about my experiences and expertise. Don’t wait: take the first step. Simply contact me via email, or phone. 

Lastly, I want to conclude by saying: thank you for taking care of yourself! It means a lot to your family, friends, and community.

The American Psychologist

Dr. Burdick is a clinical psychologist with a practice in Amsterdam (Herengracht 282 Amsterdam, 1016 BX), where he serves expats in the Netherlands and Europe with treatment and/or as an interventionist. 

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