Thursday, 10 April 2008

The 2008 UK Drug Strategy: where is recovery?

I've had to spend less time with my Blog because my three young children have come to stay for half-term. I always forget how little spare time one has being a single dad! But it's great!!

I have been reading the recent article by Kathy Gyngell of the Centre for Policy Studies, 'The 2008 Drug Strategy: The continuing nationalisation of addiction.' She points out that an effective drug strategy needs to be grounded in the need to move people from the culture of addiction to the culture of recovery. 
Last year, I wrote a series of Background Briefings on recovery for the magazine Drink and Drugs News. I emphasised the excellent work of William White and made reference to the 'Faces and Voices of Recovery' website. I described how there was an increasing shift in the States towards the recovery paradigm, where the emphasis was on how people recover from addiction, rather than focusing on the nature of addiction.
Since writing these articles, I have read the most amazing book - 'Pathways from the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery' by William White. The book takes some serious reading because it contains so much information, but it is an essential read.
Since we are normally a decade or more behind the States in adopting new approaches in this field, it is likely that a recovery movement will take off in this country in the coming years. 
However, I recently searched for the word 'recovery' in the new UK drug strategy and found it only four times. Once in the Home Secretary's Foreword, and three times referring to recovery of assets of dealers. Given that the common factor underlying all recovery is behavioural change, I searched various permutations of these words. Check for yourself, they are rarely mentioned.
Oops, rather serious errors. I can see why Kathy Gyngell criticises the UK Drug Strategy for not demonstrating 'real skill and knowledge in relation to treatment.'
On the other hand, 'recovery' has become a focus of attention in Scotland and my discussions with major players in England suggests a recognition of the need to increase understanding of recovery.
Next week, I will discuss the Wired In approach to helping people overcome substance use problems, which will involve talking about recovery, behavioural change, harm minimisation, treatment and recovery communities.


Anonymous said...

"Recovery" wasmentioned 18 times in the recent Scottisj press handout. My fear is that the term "recovery" will be hijacked and come to be defined too loosely

Anonymous said...

I agree with anons coment above - "recovery" is one of those words like "prevention", which means different things to different people.

If "recovery" means regaining control of one's life from a chaotic dependence then yes, fine. If it means "enforced abstinence" then it's not so fine.

I would agree that before it gets used too much, the word needs to be better defined.

David Clark said...

I agree with the first two postings in their concerns about how the word is used. It does not mean forced abstinence!!
My articles in DDN focus on a definition of recovery as argued by William White. There needs to be a massive education/training campaign in this field as to what recovery is.
Wired In will be focusing on such concerns. This whole issue needs to be treated very seriously and people must get informed.

steve said...

David. Just to let you know WAG have found some money to fund a SU group called SMUG in wales so there could be hope for you still. Well done SMUG

Alistair said...

From what I've read of William White's stuff I'd say the issue of definition of recovery is fairly simple (at least at first glance!) within his 'Recovery Management' model in that the individual concerned (service user) is supported in defining what recovery means to them and not what it might mean to an agency. This may well be problematic to agencies (mine included) that have been commissioned to provide particular services! There are echoes for me of Paulo Friere in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (I think I've spelt his name right!) and his focus on language - not coming in with our (institutional) language, but listening to the language/meaning/learned experience of others and from there supporting many 'pathways of recovery’, (facilitating the growth of recover capital) most of which exist outside of 'treatment' agencies. As was mentioned at the 'New Abstentionist' debate in Manchester last week, drug services (I'm avoiding 'treatment' here - language again) can learn a lot from America, but also a lot from what's being going on in mental health services in this country and radical community work for years.

Anonymous said...

'Recovery' is an individual goal. For me it is what my client wants, not what I think he ought to have. such an approach demands honesty on both sides.

If someone is using to the extent that the pursuit and consumption of his drug(s) of choice has resulted in neglect of his social, work and family obligations, and tells me he wants to get back to using 'recreationally', I have an obligation to point out to him that based on my experience,together with the medical and scientific evidence, the chances of that occurring are slim to nil. It follows, that there would be no benefit for the client to use my services.

That is not enforced abstinence, that is making people aware of their options and choices. It's called reality, a state that some find difficult to face. If someone does not like what they hear, they are free to seek another opinion.

Enforced abstinence is unlikely to work. Equally abstinence is not recovery.

Kevin said...

I agree with Peter to some extent. But what your client wants may not always be right. Maybe, he's looking at recovery from a different prespective altogether. You have to be the judge there and decide whats best for him.

Comprehensive resources for those looking for recovery from addiction.