16th June issue

Redefining recovery

Can the drug and alcohol field agree on a definition?

We’ve got an interesting question for you this issue: can you redefine what recovery means? Can you sign up to a definition that’s been put forward by a group representing different disciplines, interests, viewpoints and backgrounds? Do semantics matter – ie is this statement helpful in refocusing the drug and alcohol treatment field in the same direction? Or could it be counter-productive in giving us more definitions to argue about?

The logic behind the exercise is that we need to move beyond polarised views and agree where ‘recovery’ should take the client. In the view of the working group, this meant focusing on life beyond treatment, so that treatment itself could be more aspirational. I don’t think many drug and alcohol workers would contest that positivity, wellbeing and inclusion in society are all vital in taking their clients through the difficult here and now of drug treatment – but there has already been crossfire between those who are concerned about the statement, some to the point of strong opposition, and those who cannot see why it is not a straightforward mission to move beyond the old ‘abstinence versus methadone’ debate and work with the client’s choice of treatment. Will the usual entrenched ideologies get in the way of consensus? Is the statement on the right track? As I am in danger of simplifying the entire exercise, you must read the article on page 10 and let us know what you think.

It’s a right old game sometimes, getting your service noticed in the face of a different local culture. But Jacquie Johnston-Lynch describes in our cover story how her 12-step service in Liverpool not only played the game of attracting clients, but played it alongside the harm reduction teams, to become part of the same strong league of services. This is surely what it’s about – getting out there and playing with enthusiasm, so that clients can make their treatment choice safe in the knowledge that it will spare them penalties and bring them goals. Read the article and you will be talking like this too.

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