For the last few years, I've thought a lot about how to change the treatment system so that helps more people overcome addiction and gain a better life. At one stage, I had come to the conclusion that I needed to work with the people at the top, to help them understand the shortcomings of the current treatment system and see how it could be changed.
I gave a talk at the FDAP Annual meeting last year where I described the shortcomings of the system and emphasised that unless we did something we would end up like the American treatment system in the late 1980s and early 1990s - money was slashed and the system collapsed. I also pointed out the way we needed to move forward, which I
have reiterated in the Wired In 'Way Forward'.
I had a very positive response to my talk from a senior person within the NTA and I thought that I could enter into some long-term dialogue with the NTA that would lead to positive change. A change to a treatment system that is based on people attaining recovery - and I mean a genuine recovery, not some politicised excuse of recovery - is inevitable sooner or later. I thought that I could help speed up the process.
Well, after seeing the Paul Hayes article in the Guardian today, I realise how naive I have been. I'm not going to go into any great detail about the article, but I have to confess that it has made me angry. I quote, 'Hayes dismisses his critics as a few academics, politicians and "ideologues" stocked up by the media'. This is absolute rubbish - Paul Hayes either has his head very deeply buried in the sand or he is deliberately being untruthful.
There are many, many thousands of people out there who know that the current treatment system is NOT working and is causing damage to many people. These people who know the truth come from many different aspects of life - they are users, ex-users, family members, practitioners, commissioners, members of the general public, etc.
I've been in the North West for the past couple of days and it was quite clear to me that the people I spoke to all knew many people who know the system is not working and are tired of the NTA spin. Even some commissioners who do not really care about people with substance use problems realise that the way methadone is being used in many treatment programmes is not reducing crime and is storing up problems for the future.
Anyone can use words to create a false story, mislead people by playing with facts, and distract them by creating false concerns. Sooner or later such people are found out for what they are doing. It is time that Paul Hayes is found out for what he is doing. I encourage those people who do not believe that the current treatment system is working to write to Gordon Brown and tell him. Write and complain that Paul Hayes is misleading the country about what is truly happening.
We are talking about people's lives here. They are far more important than defending the current treatment system. Mr Hayes may think that few people will stand up and be counted - and maybe initially this will be the case. But there is a gathering momentum in the country for a treatment system that is focused on improving people's lives - rather than giving them a pill to keep them quiet - with an increasing number of people getting fed up with Mr Hayes's spin. The day of reckoning will come.
People with substance use problems need opportunity, choice and hope. The UK treatment system is not providing these key elements.
I leave you with a quote from Stuart Honor,
'It is no great trick to take an impoverished, unemployed individual who is addicted to heroin (and crack?) and turn him (sic) into an impoverished, unemployed individual who is addicted to heroin, crack, methadone and/or alcohol and benzodiazepines.'