In a recent documentary from Russell Brand which can be found here….http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04v2zrg….there were a number of issues that came up for me. Now before I rant I will be clear that I have respect for Russell on a number of social issues that he is openly exposing and supporting but this particular one is fraught with uncertainties for mecand if not challenged has the potential to cause more damage than good.
By Russell‘s own admission in his first TV slot to address policy and addiction, he only speaks on behalf of a small portion of PUD’s (People who use drugs) Statistical data would say that only 20% of the user community are, by definition, problematic. 80% use in moderation and recreationally. Therefore he is talking for the minority when looking at needs and
status. and while I fully understand where he is coming from and understand what he is saying, he is indeed speaking on behalf of the minority, again by definition. Therefore if his word was to have an influence on the current policy reform debate, it would only cover the smaller portion of PUD’s, which is the problem we are already faced with. Once again the majority would be left out there with limited support services designed to meet their needs, in fact even less as the very core of the recovery movement, the harm reduction platform on which almost every recovery journey is built on, is being severely dis-invested in and this is indeed having an impact on the final outcomes. Which could result in even less making it through to ‘full’ recovery, health wise, emotionally intact, physically intact and mentally intact,So, although I won’t knock him for his advocacy and his core beliefs, he is indeed very dangerously advocating for what is already there, policy aimed at the minority which in return becomes detrimental to the majority and restricted support for the majority with abstinence at it’s core.
I am a firm believer in the by any means necessary concept when it comes to recovery and advocate for a wide spectrum when it comes to this. I don’t believe that recovery demands abstinence but do believe that the end game of anyone on that journey is and always has been to reduce harm, risk and eventually move out of dependence, possibly towards abstinence. One foot in front of the other, no enforced steps, just positive ones, big or small.
I’m not knocking abstinence in any way shape or form and fully support whatever works I’m also aware that having one chosen route as the key element for basing a whole policy and agenda on doesn’t work either. Never will a blanket policy for any issue ever get the results it sets out to achieve in full. Abstinence has worked for many but so does moderation. Having blanket policies tends to isolate more than it supports in whatever arena they are pushed into. As an individual I promote reduced harms and risks regardless. There is a massive difference between standing in a camp and publicly standing up and saying that it is the only way, When 80% of those you are speaking for prove different. It kind of takes the power out of the argument if you are not speaking for all, in the public high profile arena it does anyway.
Abstinence is the desired outcome for many who use substances and also for many who defend whatever route they have chosen to walk but its not always what an individual chooses and definitely doesn’t work when it’s enforced or pushed for. Current policy is a smokescreen and demands abstinence when in actual fact recovery doesn’t. Recovery is simply putting one foot in front of the other moving forward at your own desired pace. The end result isn’t a race or a deadline. When someone is in hospital recovering from an accident or something similar, they are recovering from the minute they start getting help and no-one demands any specific outcome from them other than to improve with time.
Just out of interest how long and how many attempts at abstinence did it take for you to finally get there. Speaking for myself I took quite a few attempts during which time I still needed care and support, the way things are moving and the abstentionist movement will not allow for that. It has already created a deficit of individuals who are not accessing services due to the unrealistic demands and drive for positive closure fraught with bargaining and directive, guided assessment with key elements and needs for the population involved in treatment and its culture being used rather than offered as solid basis for first steps towards ‘full’ recovery. The expectations are too high and too daunting at first contact these days and this deems them not fit for purpose to many.
Treatment used to be about working with the individual where you found them, but not leaving them there, it was never about bargaining, punishment and carrots. This is where fundamentalist like Mr Brand are possibly subliminally supporting the agenda despite it having a detrimental effect on the majority of those in that specific community. Its dangerous to push for one specific outcome when there are many. I respect his, and anyone elses choice and won’t take the power out of anyones journey or story.. But….at such a high level of interaction there needs to be open mindedness around the fact that addiction has many issues and recovery has many faces,
The main problem with substance use, or more so the way it is portrayed, is that there doesn’t seem to be any understanding of the concept that that not all use is abuse and this is evident in many of the fundamentalist arguments and this also reflects in the policies and procedures of those in power to make such policies. ALL drug use seems to be portrayed as abuse when in actual fact a huge number of PUD’s do not fall into this category. Moderation does not seem to be acceptable when looking at it from an academic perspective. and this is being enforced into a community that a high number of those indulging in recreational use are a part of. This creates a system that is not designed to cater for the moderation group and when accessing services for an MOT the requirements to get scripted or full support package are based solely on abstinence based interactions. So those looking for an MOT would rather take their chances in the community. This has the effect of making the treatment system and the overall statistical data look like it is doing well by stating that drug use is down when in actual fact it might not be, it might just be that the support on offer isn’t what those looking for support are actually looking for. A systematic design that then looks like the policies are working, big pat on the back (for pulling the wool over the public’s eyes and therefore gaining support to roll out more bullshit policies) ,,,,however,,,,It also has the detrimental effect of crime statistics rising, health issues and risk increasing and sadly fatalities rising which has become evident in last years 32% rise. Now this may or may not be connected to the current adoption of the agenda but the fact that treatment has now become almost elite in it’s cherry picking nature, which was highlighted during the debating period prior to the release of the agenda, is being questioned as to its possible connections to the negative outcomes compared to its positive ones, it does beg the question. And one that a huge number of professionals in the field are now asking themselves. So with a this in mind then the abstentionist movement numbers will dwindle as there are too many expectations and demands from the get go. So unless there is a realistic reform approach to this whole thing which looks at the early stages of support and care and not only the end result then, with more focus on the beginning of the journey and acceptance around the fact that this is the individuals journey and not one that can be guided or enforced or bargained with using scripts as carrots and also as a form of punishment for moderate use, another abstinence smokescreen, sold too early in the game for any positive outcomes to be secured, then the message Russell carries is going to be in advocacy for a stagnant and more realistically smaller number than it already is. Because even if abstinence is achieved some do revert but the services that pick them up will be decommissioned in favour of the final outcome.
Abstinence may well be the Nirvana for some but they’ll never get there if we don’t put the investment back into the basics. And secure the foundations on which to start building the steps towards it. The road to recovery is lined with many tempting lay-byes and lots of individuals on that journey will make a pit stop to rest up and maintain their standing, when they do the last thing that they need is someone sending them back to the beginning of their journey to start all over again, installing a feeling of failure because they stopped for a break. Or punishing them for getting that far but not in the way some shady roadmap said it should have been done. You support them and give them encouragement, not daily pick ups all over again, you comfort them and tell them that is is a journey and not a destination and most definitely not a race. (Didn’t the tortoise beat the hare anyway? proving that it was in the quality and not the pace) The last thing you would say is that they have to travel all day and night until they get to where they are heading, that would cause immeasurable damage, not to mention take the power out of the end result because you would be too busy licking your wounds, or self medicating, because no-one tended to them along the way.
There is a saying that resonates saying to take the road less travelled which needs careful navigation, if it was simple then everyone would take the road everyone else took as it is faster and well trodden, which it would appear is what is expected in current arena, speed and turn over rather than care, time and quality, enjoying the scenery along the way. The abstentionist fundamentalists, not all those who are abstinent, seem to be forgetting where they came from and losing took of how long it took them to get there and also what support they needed along the way. And more importantly how many different routes there, This is dangerous practice and makes those who stumble think that it is not worth getting up and trying again because there is only one way and that way didn’t work for them. It’s not inclusive of those who need minimal support but support nonetheless, ,and it’s too exclusive in it’s content, it needs to be more open-minded, more flaccid and more person centred as that element seems to have disappeared.
Shining the light on one specific area pushes all surrounding areas and options into the shadows and is a trick played by politicians, to deflect our attentions from the real issues at hand. Our approach should be to illuminate the shadows completely with transparency and unity. And to do that we must all be singing the same tune, not just one chorus.