Being Held Back… by a GP Identity: Dr. David McCartney

Another film clip from the second of our Recovery Voices, Dr. David McCartney, the Founder of Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) in Scotland. David is someone who has inspired me greatly over the years.

When he finished medical school, David wanted to make a difference and work where the greatest problems were evident. He joined an inner-city GP practice. The job was extremely stressing as the need (medical and social) was so overwhelming.

In retrospect, David felt he was naive and had not learnt to create distinct boundaries. He started to go to work earlier and earlier to be able to deal with all that needed doing in the practice. With the benefit of hindsight, he can now see he was not equipped to deal with all the tragedy he saw.

David felt sympathetic towards people with drug and alcohol problems, but was out of his depth in dealing with these problems. He had received only one relevant lecture in the whole of his medical degree—on alcohol-induced liver disease.

David started to drink more and more to alleviate his increasing anxiety. He eventually realised that his drinking levels were not that different to the people who were coming to see him for their alcohol problems. However, he rationalised that he could not have a problem as he came to work in a suit… and he was a doctor! 17 April 2023. [5’12”]

David McCartney is an addiction doctor with a background in inner-city GP practice. In 2006, after having recovered from his own addiction, he achieved a Masters degree in Alcohol and Drug Studies and went on to found the Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP)—a residential rehab in Lothian, Scotland, delivered by the NHS and partners. He was part of a group which revised the UK’s ‘Orange Book’ national guidelines and has published several academic papers. For the last decade he has been part of advisory groups on drugs policy to the Scottish Government and currently chairs the Residential Rehabilitation Development Working Group for them.