Sunday, 7 September 2008

What do we need for a revolution?

I've just finished reading a fascinating book about cycling, entitled 'Heroes, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain's Track Cycling Revolution' by Richard Moore. 

In the spring, some of you may have watched what many believe was the greatest weekend of British sport ever. It was amazing to see our track cyclists win nine gold medals, more than half of those available, at the World Championships in Manchester. Only recently, we won most of the medals at the Olympics, with the unassuming Scotsman Chris Hoy winning three gold medals. 
I was fascinated with the question as to how a country that had been ridiculed as track cyclists only 15 years ago could become the super-nation of the sport, holding a psychological stranglehold over the world. One thing for sure, it was not drugs.
The book I was reading told me what I expected - there were many factors that contributed to this success. The visionary Peter Keen who drew up a plan to make British cyclists competitive and then take them to the top. Other key players in his management team:
Dave Brailsford (now in charge, with his excellent business mind), 
Shane Sutton (a great people manager, totally devoted to the cyclists), 
Steve Peters (the clinical psychiatrist, who works with individual cyclists to help bring out their best),
Chris Boardman (former cyclist, super technologist and boss of the Super Squirrel club, all the revolutionary gear that helps performance),
The rest of the support team, including coaches, mechanics and masseurs, 
And the cyclists (who are not just individuals, but who also support each other, with the more senior cyclists acting as mentors of others).
Then of course there was the money the UK Lottery provided and a total commitment to a team spirit and to being the best. And the wanting to get that 1% extra out of everything, from putting on a wheel to lifting that extra weight.
But then there was one last thing that Richard Moore describes at the end of his book: 'And sheer, undiluted, unrestrained enthusiasm - from Brailsford to Hoy to the coaches, mechanics and masseurs - seems to be a crucial element in the chemistry of the British team, perhaps the crucial element, permeating the entire squad...'
Yes, enthusiasm! 
You know, that is something that I see in the treatment agencies I visit that are doing well with their clients. Enthusiasm!! It permeates these agencies. However, there seems to be little enthusiasm in the substance use treatment field as a whole, particularly in the upper echelons that 'manage' the field. It's time for that to change!!
I know I've been talking about a national cycling team and the factors that have made it great. And you might think that is very different to the treatment field. But are those factors different? Of course there are major differences in what is required to create best performance from elite cyclists (and developing a system to bring through talent) to helping people overcome problems. But there are many common elements. 
It is time to change this field, from being one that is often ridiculed to one that becomes the envy of other fields. It is time to draw up a ten year plan and programme of activities. To bring together key elements that will allow us to transform the way that we help people overcome serious substance use problems. They did it in cycling, we can do it a field of social and health care. Let's take the Peter Keen vision as an example of what can be achieved.  
The Recovery Movement is underway.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Much as I admire your views and enthusiasm, the fundamental difference in the treatment field, at least to my understanding, is that those who ‘manage’ it, appear to be seeking to legitimise the ongoing and continued use of the substances which substantially contributed to the mental, physical and spiritual problems experienced by the addicted, by redefining ‘recovery’.

The idea that those who are addicted in accordance with the criteria in DSM-1V, can exercise ‘sustained control over substance use’ is a glaring contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, the fact that the NTA taxpayer funded national conference seemed to devote most of its time to that paradox which was created and advanced by a privately funded organisation, headed by one of the most influential persons in the field of addiction, and seemingly enthusiastically endorsed by other speakers, is sufficient for me to conclude that one way or another, the people who ‘manage’ are hell bent on legitimising drug use.

The most rational comment I read in the highlights of the conference ‘Delivering the Drug Strategy’ published on the NTA site came from Dr. Gordon Morse.

Dr Morse welcomed attempts to reconcile ideological
differences. His experience had shown him that harm reduction
and abstinence were mutually dependent not exclusive. He
considered the statement to be broadly sensible, but if the aim
is to redefine recovery from addiction, it would be desirable to
redefine addiction itself, although that would bring up the issue
of “disease”; something that had been so divisive in the past.

Yes indeed, redefine addiction. Given that condition does not appear to exist within the vocabulary of those who ‘manage’ the business, we might just as well, and thus continue to be the laughing stock of those countries who have already abandoned, or are in the process of abandoning the so called ‘evidence based policies’ which dominate our treatment protocols. After all if the best we can offer by way of recovery is addictive substitute drugs, clean needles with which to continue injecting oneself and comfortable medically supervised facilities wherein one can continue to increase the severity of one’s addiction, with the use of illicit substances, then we do deserve to be laughed at.

Revolution David, is already happening in the form of addicting the nation through addictive psycho active substances, some of which are legitimate, and others are waiting to be ‘approved’ on the basis of ‘relative harms’.