SCOTTISH DRUG POLICY – May 2008
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Scotland publishes its new drug policy – The Road To Recovery – today.
“Since becoming minister for community safety a year ago, I have had the privilege of meeting many people working in the field,” Fergus Ewing MSP writes in the Ministerial Foreword. “I have been struck by their commitment and hard work. Many of them told me that they want a new vision for tackling drug use in Scotland, and a great many agree about what the focus of that new vision should be.
“It is the job of government to capture that vision and consensus, then set out what needs to be done to turn it into reality. This is the purpose of this new strategy: to signal a step change in the way that Scotland deals with its drug problem… Above all, we need to set out a new vision where all our drug treatment and rehabilitation services are based on the principle of recovery.
“This commitment to recovery, to responding to the desire of people who use drugs to become drug free, lies at the heart of this strategy.”
Ewing explains that “Aiming for recovery means coupling common sense with aspiration, pragmatism with idealism. It means that public money invested in drug treatment services should have clear outcomes attached to them. And it means that we must treat each person using drugs on their own terms, and centre care around the person, not the addiction.”
Based on consensus and informed by best available evidence, the scottish strategy sets out a significant programme of reform to tackle Scotland’s drug problem and contribute to the government’s overarching purpose: to increase sustainable economic growth.
Central is the new approach of tackling problem drug use based firmly on the concept of recovery.
“Recovery is a process through which an individual is enabled to move-on from their problem drug use towards a drug-free life and become an active and contributing member of society,” declares the Executive Summary. “Moving to an approach based on recovery will mean a significant change in both the pattern of services commissioned and in the way that practitioners engage with individuals. The strategy sets in train actions to trun recovery into a reality. Core to this is reform of the way that drug services are planned, commissioned and delivered to place a stronger emphasis on outcomes and on recovery.”
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY RECOVERY?
The report agrees with the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, which said in a recent report that “harm reduction is often made an unnecessarily controversial issue, as if there were a contradiction between treatment and prevention on the one hand, and reducing the adverse health and social consequences of drug use on the other. This is a false dichotomy. They are complementary”.
Any new strategy to tackle drugs in Scotland must move beyond this artificial distinction. In the government’s view, “recovery” should be made the explicit aim of services for problem drug users.
By recovery, the scottish drug policy means “a process through which an individual is enabled to move on from their problem drug use, towards a drug-free life as an active and contributing member of society”. Furthermore, it incorporates the principle that recovery is most effective when service users’ needs and aspirations are palced at the centre of their and treatment. In short, an aspirational person-centred process.
In practice, recovery will mean differentthings at different times to each individual person with problem drug use. Above all, people aspiring to milestones in recovery must have the confidence that they can achieve their personal goals. The road to recovery might mean developing the skills to prevent relapse into further illegal drug taking, rebuilding broken relationships or forging new ones, actively engaging in meaningful activities and taking steps to build a home and provide for themselves and their families. Milestones could be as simple as gaining weight, re-establishing relationships with friends, or building self-esteem. What is key is that recovery is sustained.
Recovery as an achievable goal is a concept pioneered in recent years with great success in the field of mental health. The Scottish Recovery Network has been raising awareness of the fact that people can and do recover from even the most serious and long-term mental ill-health.
The strength of the recovery principle is that it can bring about a shift in thinking – a change in attitude both by service providers and by the individual with the drug problem. There is no right or wrong way to recover. Recovery is about helping an individual achieve their full potential – with the ultimate goal being what is important to the individual, rather than the means by which it is achieved.
The government’s vision for how drug-treatment services in Scotland should be delivered is therefore based on the followiing three principles:
- first, recovery should be made the explicit aim of all servicesproviding treatment and rehabilitation for people with problem drug use
- secondly, a range of appropriate treatment and rehabilitation services must be available at a local level – since different people with different circumstances inevitably need different routes to recovery, and
- thirdly, treatment services must integrate effectively with a wider range of generic services to fully address the needs of people with problem drug use, not just their addiction.
Turning these principles into reality will require a concerted effort by government and commissioners – and a culture change on the part of some service providers, to develop an approach which raises expectations consideraly higher than currently. But a culture which engenders hope and progress should be welcomed by frontline workers who have high aspirations for their clients.
Access The Road To Recovery, the scottish drug policy, by clicking here.