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Recovery resistance

Posted · 7 Comments

Boxing gloveWhen recovery became the bedrock of drugs policy in the UK there were objections. Some commentators were vociferous and condemnatory. Their words were reported prominently in the addictions press provoking a response from academics and clinicians working in the field. Titled Recovery and Straw Men: An Analysis of the Objections Raised to the Transition to a Recovery Model in UK Addiction Services, the authors identified 26 different objections and dismantled them one by one. Some of those objections seem a bit quaint now that we have a bit more confidence about recovery in treatment settings, but at the time they were real concerns.

Recovery resistance

The recovery resistance voices are a bit quieter now, at least here in the UK, though judging from some recent news from Professor David Best in Australia, there are battles still to be fought. In a reflective piece in the current Recovery Academy Australia newsletter he takes stock of his time down under and, firstly, notes on the positive side:

What we have really achieved is to break down some of the professional and community suspicions and uncertainties about recovery,…

He goes on though to outline the challenges in his characteristically straightforward way including a difficult experience at an event in 2012:

It was an unpleasant and acrimonious meeting that was biased and loaded – peopled by harm reduction zealots and apologists respectively – who had no interest in discussing recovery, only in rubbishing the idea and how ‘politically dangerous’ it was. It became apparent at this meeting how threatened a number of people were by the ideas of connection, hope, meaningful lives and empowerment.

Harm reduction AND recovery

In the UK we have enough harm reductionists championing recovery and enough recovery champions embracing harm reduction to tell us that there is no need to adopt polarised positions. As I’ve written here and here, there is nothing fundamentally incompatible about the two. It’s not a question of choosing either harm reduction or recovery, it’s harm reduction AND recovery.

Resistance-is-futileThese days you really have to turn the volume up a bit to hear the naysayers. Nowadays they are more of the whispering, undermining kind. While I think it’s completely reasonable to have concerns voiced (e.g. around ‘forced reductions’, coerced treatment and lack of real choice etc.) it’s not really acceptable that the views of workers in the field might act as barriers to recovery access for clients.

The fundamental reason that recovery resistance cannot really triumph is because of what it is up against. There are various groups championing recovery. Families; practitioners who have been convinced by the shift in emphasis and its effects; commissioners; communities and politicians. These groups are all influential, but even they are not the main reason that recovery resistance is being defeated. The most powerful positive force for recovery is that generated by recovering people and those seeking recovery. This is what has made the greatest different and this is why those resisting are on a hiding to nothing.

Resistance is futile

We have a recovery movement advocating for recovery options because the system has not offered these enough in the past. People in recovery have a voice and a face in many places now which means they can’t be ignored. And evidence is accumulating what people actually want from treatment and also what helps to deliver good outcomes.

Recovery resistance is futile because if we resist recovery we are resisting the clients or patients services are set up to help. As Professor Best makes clear in the quote above, the themes of recovery are connection, hope, meaningful lives and empowerment. Those resisting recovery are resisting these values and such resistance is futile. Better to go with it and deliver on recovery than stand against it.

    7 Responses to "Recovery resistance"
    1. Innocent Abroad says:

      Of course people who go into treatment want abstinence. Whether they wanted it the previous year, let alone when they started abusing alcohol/drugs, is another matter entirely.

      And still another matter is what the voters want. A significant proportion, I suspect, would like to save on taxes by shooting addicts out of hand (i.e. encouraging the police to do so) – of course, neither of us expect them to admit it, do we? And indeed, we can demand that addicts/alcoholics be seen as victims, or we can uphold religious tolerance, but we can’t do both…

    2. Adam says:

      The issue that is still separating everyone is ‘What is addiction?’.
      Until this is nailed, the insane argument will continue.

      Robert West’s ‘Theory of Addiction’ still seems to be the most authoritative text, and it shows how confused and incomplete understanding is.

      Academia is strongly influenced by the research agendas of the pharmaceutical companies. They very deliberately maintain an approach that is linked to a non abstinence agenda. They want the solution to remain incomplete and require chemical / gene therapies.

      I have spent the last 10 years on the front line, with the last 4 of them obsessively private studying what addiction is and I’ve developed a science that I am getting 100% traction from addicts identifying with it, and 100% traction from professionals finding it plausible.

      Is anyone out there interested?

      • Innocent Abroad says:

        We have been here before.

        The issue is not addiction per se (or else there would be facilities offering rehab from caffeine consumption, for instance) but abuse: harm to self or others apparently rooted in addiction, but only apparently. The true root lies elsewhere.

        • Adam says:

          Innocent abroad…
          What you are pointing out is the error in everyone’s thinking. Addiction is not the same as chemical dependency. I have a theory that holds exact neuroscience for what the difference is, and which you will believe in.

      • phil pyles says:

        to adam, i’m interested, please e-mail me

        • Adam says:

          I’m going to record a YouTube presentation of it next week and will post the link so anyone who’s interested can see it.

    3. Karen Adler says:

      hi adam – yes, i’m interested in finding out what this ‘science that [you’re] getting 100% traction from addicts identifying with it, and 100% traction from professionals finding it plausible.’ feel free to contact me with the details as to where and how this is happening. thanks – karen

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