Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by the Addiction Recovery Training Services (DP002)

Executive Summary

Detailed consideration should be given to alternative ways of tackling drug rehabilitation. The principle “treatment” policies of the last 60 years have failed to halt expanding addiction, but the Coalition’s 2010 strategy appears destined to succeed because at its core is demand reduction derived from bringing the existing addicts who create demand to lasting abstinence.

With “training” in 45 year proven self-help recovery techniques, “lasting abstinence/demand reduction” can be achieved at a tiny fraction of the cost to taxpayers of status quo psycho-pharm “treatments”, and can start to be implemented two years earlier than completion of the ongoing Payment by Results “pilots”.

Submitted by

The writer is a retired UK Magistrate, trained in addiction recovery techniques in Sweden, who founded Addiction Recovery Training Services in 1975 “to inform UK officials and public about those registered charities which, by providing training in effective do-it-for-yourself recovery methods, help a majority of individual addicts to achieve for themselves a lasting return to the natural non-criminal state of relaxed abstinence into which 99% of the population is born.”

It became obvious that the “training” in other countries of alcoholics and drug addicts was not only achieving abstinence results far in excess of those attained by “treatment”, but also in the UK such training was being attacked, marginalised, ridiculed, denigrated and systematically blackened by the vested interest providers of basically ineffective treatments and counselling.

It is therefore our mission to inform local community officials and national decision-makers of the vastly superior results obtained from training addicts in do-it-for-yourself addiction recovery techniques, especially as, under the Coalition government’s new drugs strategy, such training delivers—better than any other system—the results the government now requires.

Submission

Whilst the Government’s 2010 Drugs Strategy is a very appropriate subject for the HASC, attempts within the next two years to examine that strategy’s effectiveness will be just about as worthwhile as trying to examine the effectiveness of a new form of flying machine which has yet to be built and operated.

This is because the 2010 drugs strategy will not be fully ready for launching until the start of 2014.

Consequently, examinations undertaken prior to that will inevitably be a re-inspection of the still ongoing but failed strategies of the last 60 years—which the Coalition in its 2010 policy statement announced are now to be abandoned.

Unfortunately, seeking to change a policy originated in the 1950s on psycho-pharmaceutical treatment “advice” (and now entrenched in the society for 60 years) is like trying to stop and change the direction of a gigantic oil-tanker. Inertia alone renders this a massive time and effort consuming manoeuvre, and, when also covertly resisted by senior members of the tanker’s crew for their own financial reasons, provides a near mutinous situation for the Captain.

The four year delay on the full launch of the 2010 drugs strategy has been imposed:

(a)by the resistance (of the NHS’s so-called “scientific” but nevertheless failed “experts” at the National Treatment Agency (NTA) to the new government’s plans for the NTA’s totally deserved closure; and

(b)by a concurrent plea from the NTA’s psycho-pharmaceutical supporters for time: “to ‘pilot’ the fiscal and operational effects on the solvency of rehabilitation providers of ‘Payment by Results’ (PbR)”.

All of which is proving to be no more than an excuse for the treatment providers of the last decade to buy time to try and develop a psycho-pharm based addiction recovery system which can actually deliver the 2010 strategy goal of lasting abstinence.

If they do find a way, the question must be asked as to why they never earlier even attempted to seek a cure for addiction but preferred instead the daily turnover and profit obtained from supplying “treatment” based on methadone and buprenorphine, naloxone and disulfiram, etc, plus regular sessions of psychiatric “counselling”, all supplied by psycho-pharm vested interests.

But all this pretended need for “piloting” PbR or any new form of “treatment” is an unnecessary costly delay, because there is already available in 49 countries an addiction recovery training programme which for up to 75% of dependents using most addictive substances delivers the lasting abstinence results the government seeks.

But the above mentioned programme, which has been delivered internationally for 45 years is not acceptable to psycho-medico-pharmaceutical interests because it is not “treatment” and so does not require the services of psychiatrists or daily supplies of pharmaceutical drugs paid for by the taxpayer.

The reason for the failure of the “treatments” of the last six decades (“treatments” which will be with us until at least 2014) is because substance addiction is provenly not a treatable condition.

Addiction is not a disease or something you catch by infection or from contagious contact. Addiction arises from a decision or agreement made by an individual to ingest a substance in the belief that that substance will help him to solve what he considers a problem in his life.

This is the same reason individuals have for taking any drug.

Aspirin for headaches, a sleeping pill for insomnia, another pill for sea-sickness, a glass of spirits to reduce tension, or a dose of Valium to handle a worrying loss, etc.

Addictive substances are used as “solutions” to situations perceived by the individual to be a problem, and because they are each individual’s own solution he will resist removal of “his solution” by any treatment, however well meant, which attempts to “do” things “to” or “for” him.

This is because, although the drug initially appears to help his problem solving, he soon learns that quitting is not easy, and begins to find his life controlled, not by his own decisions, but by the unconfrontable effects of cold-turkey withdrawal, by the increasing desire for the drug itself, and by those who supply it.

“Treatment” involves more control by others, who are trying to take away from the addict what he considered a valuable solution. So which side of the fence is he subconsciously on in any “treatment” scenario which is imposing more control on his actions and decisions? The evidence of the last 60 years shows that attacking an addict’s solutions does not cure him, and can build resistance to treatment.

The recommendations of the manipulated and biased Global Commission on Drug Policy, which appear to have prompted this select committee inquiry, are manifestly based on the same failures of national policies experienced by practically all countries during the last six decades.

Because “treatments” cannot cure addiction, nearly all national policies derived from “advice” given by commercially orientated psychiatric and pharmaceutical “experts” are based on their false claim that substance addiction is “incurable”. This is because for the psycho-pharms an addicted client is a goose which daily lays golden eggs in profit terms, and so they want addicts regarded as a species to be protected from being cured by anyone.

Under the 2010 government drug policies the efficacy of those polices is measured by the number of addicts which recover to lasting abstinence, and consequently improve their health and wellbeing, abandon usage of supporting acquisitive crime, take up employment and increase concern for their families.

Unlike earlier successive UK governments, which have taken dubious so-called “expert advice” exclusively from the psycho-pharmaceutical sector, it is clear from the 2010 drugs strategy that the Coalition have been prepared to seek and examine recovery results achieved abroad for many decades, and so one expects they will be helping to expand and promote the Anonymous 12 Steps system, which for 75 years has been providing lasting abstinence results 10 times more often than methadone prescription “treatment”.

The quality and sort of advice given by any drug producer is never independent, and often 180 degrees opposite to that from providers with a long record of successfully bringing addicts to lasting abstinence, and in fact training addicts in do-it-for-yourself recovery techniques has for 45 years proved by far the most consistent addiction cure system.

When recovered, an addict is self-sufficient. He is not cured if he needs a doctor or policeman to watch him for the rest of his life—a continuing burden on other taxpayers. So training in self-help addiction recovery techniques provides tools which the former addict can continue to apply to himself—for life.

Psycho-pharm “in-treatment service users” inevitably burden the government and other electors with massive costs. The government’s National Audit Office reported that the costs of keeping an addict on methadone “habit management treatment” did not just involve the costs of the methadone doses, but included some 30 other continuing expenditures inflicted on the exchequer and the public alike by the lifestyles of service users.

In addition to the psycho-pharmaceutical and other medical costs involved in provision of the daily prescription doses, one has to consider such users’ claiming of a full range of benefits, their continuing criminality and imposition on the police, the courts, the probation system, the costs of various insurances, their higher than normal health costs and the costs of their higher accident rates, creating overall a cost to the community for each average prescription methadone user of £54,000 every year for the life of that user—usually some 40 years, so that one addict’s total lifetime cost is some £2,160,000, and government reports some 330,000 problematic addicts, most of them “in treatment”.

If the government’s demand for addiction recovery procedures which deliver lasting abstinence is not met, this is a potential cost to our economy of nearly £18 billion each year for the next 40 years!

On the other hand, addicts can be residentially trained to bring themselves to lasting abstinence for a once only cost of £19,500, and will achieve that result in 55 to 70+% of cases.

If there is no demand for a product, no one will bother to supply it. By far the greatest demand for addictive substances comes from existing drug users, but when interviewed one finds that 70 to 75% of them:

(a)have tried to stop on numerous occasions; but

(b)in spite of their failure to quit, they still want to stop.

The other 25 to 30% of “resistive cases” have no desire or intention whatsoever to quit for three main reasons:

(a)for some their drug is “their whole life”;

(b)others have failed to quit so often that they absolutely “know” they are incurable; and then there are

(c)those who are self-medicating for some psychosis or paranoia and refuse to again confront their terrors.

But 55 of the 70 to 75 in every 100 existing addicts who have tried, failed but still want to stop, can do so first time through a 26 week residential self-help addiction recovery training programme, and another 15 or more can also usually achieve lasting abstinence during a shorter second training period.

So the way to reduce interest in supplying drugs—whether illegal, licensed or prescription—is to slash the demand, and this is done by reducing the existing number of addicts who generate the demand for both legal as well as illegal drugs.

This is the way to conduct the so-called war on drugs—which has not been lost—because it has never been properly waged via reduction of demand for drugs of all types. And the reason has been and still is, that there are powerful interests who don’t want their clients/patients taken from them by letting them be cured.

It will be seen that when it comes to examining the extent to which the Government’s 2010 drug strategy is a “fiscally responsible policy”, one has only to compare the cost to our peoples and our economy of supplying and maintaining methadone service users for life at £2,160,000 per addict, with the once only cost of bringing an addict to lasting abstinence by training him in self-sufficiency for only £19,500.

Obviously there can be no greater proof of cost-effectiveness than is portrayed by the very provable figures quoted in the preceding paragraph.

Because by moving addicts into lasting abstinence, reduced demand will reduce attempts to supply, and because there will be lower numbers of addicts and pushers to attract police, medical, court, probation attention and prison incarceration, then drug-related expenditure and costs of policing, etc, will clearly decrease in line with budgets.

In fact the very essence of the strategy of insisting on high levels of lasting abstinence is demand reduction, because it is reduced demand which reduces so many other related problems and expenditures. Furthermore lower numbers of addicts help the overall productivity of any country.

It is said that one volunteer is worth two pressed men, and that a religious convert is usually more devout than someone born into his religion. History also demonstrates that men or women who have rescued themselves from addiction, most often make a better life for themselves and their families than those who have not looked into the jaws of addiction.

The Department of Health has little to do with recovery from addiction, as it is that Department (via the NHS and the NTA) which has presided over the last 60 years of failure to reduce demand for drugs. Each industry has its own problems and, for the same reasons that one finds that alcohol dispensing publicans, barmaids and cellar-men have the highest levels of alcoholism, we find that physicians, nursing staff and those employed in pharmaceutical factories and dispensaries have the highest levels of drug addiction when compared to other industries. Familiarity breeds contempt!

“Physician heal thyself” is an activity seldom attempted by the DoH, which has for decades merely commissioned others to provide addiction “rehabilitation” and, because training in self-help addiction recovery techniques is the 45 year proven method of attaining lasting abstinence and demand reduction, the appropriate Ministry is the Department for Education. Transfer of the NTA’s abortive “treatment” functions to Public Health England is totally inappropriate as “treatment” per se is manifestly not the answer.

Several more points which the Committee is scheduled to consider are: the supply and demand of illicit drugs; the availability of “legal highs” and the legal framework for dealing with them; the links between drugs, organised crime and terrorism; and the spiralling availability of both generic and branded pharmaceutical drugs without prescription.

However, all of these are far less important than the vital task of reducing the demand which drives all drug usage problems—the very task which the Coalition’s 2010 strategy can accomplish.

This demand reduction has never been directly tackled by the psycho-pharm recommended “treatments” of the last 60 years. Today however, the Coalition is demanding and supporting lasting abstinence, and the knowledge that it can succeed (on a programme already proven abroad and at a cost which matches the Coalition’s requirements) handles other concerns.

December 2011

Prepared 8th December 2012