To be included in the next magazine, send your letters and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 57 High Street, Ashford, Kent TN24 8SG. Letters may be edited for space or clarity – please limit submissions to 350 words.
Much to build on
I want to congratulate you on what I think, was the best ever DDN conference – there was a real balance and we got a long way to the title The challenge: getting it right for everybody.
Why was it so good? Loads of reasons but I would like to pick out a few. It started with a most wonderful speaker, Linda Chan from BoB (Build On Belief), who spoke about her own life and journey and the amazing impact of being able to volunteer whilst still in treatment and on OST. I really felt it – how she felt on walking nervously into BoB that first time, only to be welcomed and not rejected because she was on a script. This rejection of people on OST happens in many places and it is totally unhelpful and uncalled for. People need to be supported where they are, not where services or workers think they should be.
The second big success for me was the inspiring and collective passionate campaign to get naloxone in England. This reminded me of the old times – no egos, sharing all, everyone wanting to work together. People from all philosophies, strictly proud abstinence-based organisations, drug user organisations, human rights organisations and treatment services, came together to collectively fight to make naloxone more available in England.
The long awaited PHE guidance on naloxone is a helpful document but unfortunately it is only ‘advice’ to local authorities. Hence it doesn’t name and shame or pressurise the 54 per cent of local authorities having no ‘take-home naloxone’ – we must do that! Naloxone is a safe and cost-effective tool to save lives and is proven not to cause people to use more drugs. There is no excuse not to offer it if we truly care about recovery and human life.
Sadly I need to remember that my enthusiasm is set in the worrying state of the sector clearly highlighted in the recent DrugScope survey, which shows that the substance misuse field is still addicted to re-commissioning. It is clear that substance misuse services are no longer protected from the reduction in public sector spending, that the sector is likely to suffer substantial disinvestment between 2014 and 2016, and that cuts in other services have also had significant impact on drug users in treatment.
But we do have ways forward and I want to share how Mat Southwell talked about how active drug users and community mobilisation were key to the early HIV response and, now, how globally active drug users and recovery drug users are working together to increase availability of naloxone. We saw that at this conference and this is what we must build on.
Finally I must say total thanks and well done to all the DDN team. I have some idea how tough the finances were this year, how many people you support to come could not get there without your help, and your total commitment to this vitally important conference.
Although I’m sort of retired can I book my place for next year?
Dr Chris Ford, clinical director, IDHDP
Steps to recovery
With six months until the annual recovery walk, Daniel Galloway shares how his involvement was the start of a much bigger personal journey
I’m a person in recovery. I’ve been free from using alcohol and other drugs for more than six months now. As part of maintaining my sobriety I am volunteering time to help organise the UK Recovery Walk to be hosted by Durham on 12 September.
I’m acting as secretary for the host committee, doing exciting things like typing up meeting notes, but also putting my views forward on decisions that will help shape the event. After attending the Manchester recovery walk, being filled with tears most of the day, and attending the first planning meeting, I knew I wanted to have a proactive role in the event. However, due to my experiences with alcohol and other drugs I was a shell of the person that I am today. I was full of fear and self-doubt about my ability to take on the role. I did summon the courage to put my name forward and they accepted me, especially as I could use a computer and email.
The Manchester walk was an emotional day. I was three weeks sober, and I had never seen or imagined so many people celebrating recovery. I had a fantastic day and the tears finally came out as I sang with the recovery choirs Something Inside So Strong. Seeing the crowd link arms and singing along finally led to me letting my emotions go.
Alcohol and cannabis robbed me of all my self-respect and dignity. This finally brought me to my knees and I reached a point where I had to seek help. I have slowly started to rebuild my life and see my involvement in the recovery walk as a key component in my recovery. Alongside attending the local drop-in centre and taking part in sport, I have also got involved in the fundraising and the art group sub-committees. Hopefully someone else can get that same feeling of belonging from the Durham walk that I got from the Manchester walk, and will be able to start their recovery journey.
It’s a privilege to have the UK Recovery Walk in Durham, a small city and a relatively new recovery community. We are four months into planning the walk and things are moving on well. Having a load of people in recovery working on the project means things get done!
See you in September!
Should OST be time limited?
In the opening session of the DDN conference, Annette Dale-Perera, a member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, explained how the ACMD was collecting evidence about the quality of opioid substitution treatment (OST) in England. Is there any case for time limiting it, as suggested by Ian Duncan Smith?
Delegates were invited to complete questionnaires at the conference, and the time limit for responses has now been extended to allow our readers to participate.
The evidence is important, and will help to redress unfair policy. Please complete a short survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CCPLWK7