Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Dr David Best loved the treatment community enough to tell them the truth

The Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs’ Inaugural Annual Lecture at the Senedd, the Welsh Assembly building in Cardiff Bay last night, was delivered by Dr David Best from the University of the West of Scotland under the title – ‘Evidence of hope: what do we know about sustained recovery from alcohol and drug addiction?’

David was on form and his lecture was both thought-provoking and informative. I was left thinking, at last someone is talking sense here and he’s backed it up with solid evidence – yes, treatment is not good enough and treatment itself is not enough – it is not sufficient in its current form to support recovery. David, however, recognised that recovery does happen but that it happens in community settings where indigenous resources provide the basis for the recovery journey. (The lecture, which was hosted by Gareth Jones OBE, AM, was recorded and will be on our website soon – along with the text, which can be downloaded from www.welshcouncil.org.uk)

This Inaugural Annual Lecture sees the implementation of one important initiative from the Welsh Council’s 3 Years Strategy: ‘working in partnership with other organizations to promote greater awareness of the dangers of substance misuse’. The lecture was held in association with the three registered treatment centres in Wales: Brynawel House (South Wales), CAIS (North Wales) and Rhoserchan (Mid Wales) – each has a different philosophy regarding the treatment of substance misuse – but united to co-sponsor this important event ‘for the common goal’ of helping sufferers all over Wales.

Listening to Dr David Best last night I was more convinced than ever of the treatment community’s need to cooperate and work together. Isn’t it high-time that we accept each treatment programme’s right to co-exist?

And we’ve been set a precedent.

The issue at the heart of Northern Ireland politics over the last 100 years springs to mind – and I’m not being frivolous in my comparison here, because both issues have consequences of life and death unless satisfactorily resolved.

This piece is taken from the Guardian newspaper of 14th March 2007. Nicholas Watt et al., (2007) and describes the main protagonists in the solution to the Northern Ireland troubles thus: ‘A fierce Protestant, Mr Paisley is the founder and moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, who has outraged Catholics by denouncing the Pope as the Anti-Christ. Mr Blair, is an Anglican who attends mass with his Catholic wife; Gerry Adams and Martin Maguinnes, political leaders of Sinn-Féin, ex para-military leaders of the IRA, and both ardent Catholics.’ However, peace in Northern Ireland was their (ultimate) common goal. And in order to achieve that ‘common goal’, they had to put aside their differences and accept ‘power-sharing’ as the only possible way of achieving that longed-for peace.

The ‘common goal’ in addiction to alcohol and drugs is recovery. And for that to be achieved, both Harm Reduction and Abstinence (and all other approaches) have to be compatible and, more importantly, be accepted as such. This ‘can be achieved only if many men, not just a few, are willing and able to confront frankly, and tackle courageously, their ethical, personal, and social conflicts – which means ‘having the courage and integrity to forego waging battles on false fronts.’ (Szasz, 1973.)


NICHOLAS, W., BOWCOTT, O., WINTOUR, P., 2007. Blair’s Secret Weapon in Paisley talks: religion. The Guardian. 14 March 2007. p1.

SZASZ, T. S.,1973. Ideology and Insanity: essays on the psychiatric dehumanisation of man. London: Marion Boyars.


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