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Kate Middleton's new cause: addiction and recovery

January 05, 2012|By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog

Eight months after wedding England's Prince William, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge (formerly Kate Middleton), has revealed she will become a patron of the British charity Action on Addiction, which supports research, prevention and treatment of addiction, support for addicts' families and the education and training of those working in the field.

Action on Addiction is one of several charities to which the Duchess will lend her highly visible support: Other charities relate to Catherine's interest in the arts, including a charity that provides art therapy to children. She also announced she would become a patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices, which help care for children with life-threatening illnesses.

The duchess' choices of organizations were announced Thursday. For some observers, her support of a charity focusing on addiction was reminiscent the late Princess Diana's decision to support the cause of HIV/AIDS--then a highly stigmatized disease--in the early 1980s. But with an estimated 1 in 3 Britons suffering from addiction at some point in their lives, the issue is hardly invisible: It touches families across the country.

According to an announcement released Thursday by Action on Addiction, Catherine paid a private visit recently to a treatment center run by the charity. There she "spoke at length to a number of clients about their addiction and personal journeys to recovery," the statement said. Action on Addiction chief executive Nick Barton called the duchess' patronage "a great honor," adding that the subject of alcohol and drug dependence "is not always well understood or responded to effectively." Catherine's public attention to the issue will help, he added.

Though dependence on drugs, alcohol and nicotine are among the charity's foremost concerns, Action on Addiction has followed the addiction treatment field into more controversial ground. The charity defines addiction as "a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity," and lists gambling, sex, shopping and exercise as among other behaviors that can be addictive. Some researchers continue to debate whether these behavioral addictions are grounded in the same physical and psychological processes that give rise to drug and alcohol addictions--an argument Catherine is likely to hear as she deepens her knowledge of the subject.

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