Letters to the editor – June issue

Downward spiral

I applaud Ms Durjava’s sensitive and respectful study of heroin users in prison (DDN, May, page 6). Government drug strategies invariably talk negatively about drug use and base their strategies accordingly – on the  crude assumption that, given plenty of stick and a bit of carrot, all users want to stop. It is refreshing to read heroin use interpreted rationally for once, as a solution rather than a problem.

The UK prison system is in free fall and heading for the very bottom, as we all well know, and in spite of all the warnings successive governments have failed to take responsibility.

There are oases of good practice here and there, but overall successive governments have been utterly failing the disadvantaged, maligned, and ever increasing population shoved out of sight behind bars. As a result, the article explains, prisons are in perpetual crisis. It is hardly surprising that their residents like taking heroin, or anything else that might help to obliterate their misery.

It does not have to be like this. In search of humane and effective alternatives, the Dutch government has been closing prisons since 2009, sometimes renting them out for use by offenders from Norway and Belgium. Our government too has looked across the water for inspiration. Their preference though has been for American business models that drive down costs and do almost nothing for resources.

Why we would want to copy models from a country with the highest number of prisoners (more than 2m) and an insatiable appetite for locking up ethnic minorities is baffling. It’s a recipe for ongoing failure, and signals just how divorced from reality have become the ministers and civil servants propelling us down this miserable road.

The mandarins who peer down the wrong end of a telescope from their ivory towers before making up some new policy or other are, quite simply, clueless. Think of former justice secretary Grayling’s tenure, for example, and his aim to restrict prisoners’ access to books, or to sell prison training to Saudi Arabia. Thus many prisoner governors, staff, and indeed prisoners desperate for change, find themselves endlessly thwarted instead of supported by government.

Meanwhile life in prisons grinds on, at the mercy of ministers who have little or no idea what they’re dealing with. Take so called drug-free wings, offering privileges to people who agree to random drug testing. As cannabis may be detectable for a month or more while opiate traces are gone in more like 24 hours, policy has created another scenario where taking heroin is the rational choice.

What hope this Brexit-obsessed government will ever get a grip?

Paul Taylor, by email


Capital crisis

In response to Alex Boyt’s piece in the April edition of DDN (page 12), one cannot help but recognise the absence of distinction between what can perhaps be classified as ‘addiction’ with a small ‘a’ to indicate a behaviour that includes the habitual use of psychoactive substances for recreational reasons which might have some social and personal consequences, in contradistinction to ‘Addiction’ with a capital ‘A’ to indicate chronic substance misuse that has reached a life-threatening level after following a chaotic path of personal loss and degradation that impacts family, friends and society at large.

Alex is clearly referring to ‘addiction’ with a small ‘a’ when suggesting someone in recovery being able to imbibe a beer on a warm day while neglecting to take into consideration the neuroscience of Addiction with a capital ‘A’ that has ascertained the fundamental requirement of a corridor of abstinence for the metabolism to realign itself towards overall stability. This, for those suffering chronic life-threatening Addiction with a capital ‘A, affords an opportunity to achieve homeostatic neurochemical balance that includes the ability to keep addiction with a capital ‘A’ in remission by the observance of abstinence on a daily basis.

Alex also struggles with the word ‘powerless’ within the 12-step framework; yet this terminology is simply a paradox that proves the truth so to speak, in that once one has been able to accept their ‘powerlessness’ over Addiction with a capital ‘A’ one immediately gains the ‘power’ to do something about it, given that such admittance brings one out of denial which has been the unconscious dynamic driving the Addiction.

Of course Alex is being true to himself exploring his own preferences and prejudices while questioning the integrity of the 12-step programme – the efficacy of which is predicated on abstinence – although one wonders why he has to do this in a magazine of wide circulation that is read by individuals who may be in early recovery and have achieved ‘power’ over Addiction with a capital ‘A’ by means of the abstinence-based 12-step programme? What is the gain in casting doubt?

One wishes Alex well on his own journey, while perhaps suggesting he might demonstrate an attitude of acceptance for others who might not be as articulate as he is, but who nevertheless have an attitude of simple faith that abstinence-based recovery supported by the 12-step programme works as an enduringly life-saving intervention for each person individually.

John Graham, therapeutic counsellor (retired), by email


Just be happy

There’s lots of great things about the fellowship (DDN, April, page 12) that I have benefited from and it certainly guided me from a selfish crazy drug addict child to the decent adult that I am now. I learnt how to laugh and judge and meet entirely the wrong men.

I liked God for a bit but wanted my power back – the one I own to make choices based on my own critical thinking. I agree that it has inherent flaws for me, but it played a valuable part.

But it was just a part. We did it so we are entitled (after a life of beating ourselves up for being flawed) to think and feel whatever we want. And to be happy. We are awesome.

Jo Rollason, via www.drinkanddrugsnews.com


Slight diversion

Diverting addicts from courts to treatment. This sounds pretty good. Until we ask: ‘What treatment? Where is the treatment? What is the goal of treatment?’

The current goal established for the Department of Health by psychiatric Professor Sir John Strang’s ‘Orange Book’ and his National Addiction Centre is merely to move addicts from usage of illicit drugs to continuing daily usage for life of prescription pharmaceutical drugs.

That‘s not ‘treatment’. It’s a clever profitable takeover by the psycho-pharm fraternity of clients created by drug barons and their pushers!

Or is ‘treatment’ persuading addicts to move themselves into 12-step AA, NA or CA groups in the hope that their dedication will deliver a few more ‘clean’ former addicts back into society at no cost to the government?

The truth is that ‘treatment’ is the wrong approach, because little of it delivers a lasting return to the natural state of relaxed abstinence which every addict needs, wants and deserves.

What does work is addiction recovery self-help training which gives an addict the knowledge he or she needs, plus the necessary revival of responsibility which together puts the former addict back in control of their life – for life.

But because the ‘Orange Book’ and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have recently downgraded all residential rehabs as ineffective, and because addiction recovery self-help training is necessarily also residential, every approach to addiction handling which is not based on some form of non-residential substitution therapy has now been effectively negated in the minds of the ministers and officials who make government drugs policy.

Above all else, what every addict needs is true and honest knowledge and a resurrection of personal responsibility in order to get themselves back in control of their lives, and availability of these vital factors should not be deprived of government support just because their delivery happens to be residential.

E Kenneth Eckersley, CEO Addiction Recovery Training Services (ARTS)


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