It’s Not Just About the Drug, Part 3

I continue my series of blog posts focused on drug, set (the person) and setting (the social context) [Part 1 is here]. Drug, set and setting is not only of relevance to addiction, but also to overcoming addiction.

The path into and out of addiction
The ‘person’ and ‘social context’ factors influence early substance use and the likelihood that a person will develop problematic use and addiction. In general, individuals are less likely to develop substance use problems if they have fewer complicating life problems, more resources (social, personal, educational, economic), and opportunities for alternative sources of reward.

One explanation is that these individuals develop a weaker attachment to the substance in that for them substance use does not serve as many emotional, psychological or social needs.

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‘Our Recovery Stories’ eBook Available Tomorrow

‘Learn from the True Experts’

Recovery from addiction comes from the person with the problem. They do the work in overcoming their substance use and related problems, getting well, and getting their life (back) on track. Recovery is a process of self-healing. Practitioners, peer supporters and others may facilitate recovery, but they do so by catalysing and supporting natural processes of recovery in the individual. 

Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction comes out tomorrow as a self-published eBook (170,000 words). It can be purchased from Apple, Amazon or Kobo. It is available via Apple, Amazon or Kobo (price: £4.99, A$8.99, US$6.99, €5.99). Please note, that you must purchase and download the book from the supplier’s store in your country or region. Just search for the book using the words of the main title. The Amazon and Kobo links above are for the UK stores. There is no link for Apple, as their system works differently through the Apple Books app. Further information about purchasing can be found at the bottom of this page.

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My Friend Natalie

I first met Natalie in my early days of working in the addiction field in the community. I still remember clearly her telling me that when she was using heroin, she did not know how to stop. She could find no information about how to stop using heroin. She knew no one who had stopped using.

Fortunately, Natalie accessed a high-quality treatment agency (WGCADA) and she found recovery. When we met, she told me that there needed to be stories of people who had found recovery available so that people with a drug and/or alcohol problem could read and learn from them.  I asked her if we could write her Story. She agreed.

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‘Addiction is a Medical Disorder’: No Way!

In my last blog, I described how I spent the first 25 years of my career as a neuroscientist studying brain function. After working in Sweden and the USA, I returned to the UK to set up my own neuroscience laboratory in the Department of Psychology, University of Reading in 1986. Six years later, I moved the laboratory to the Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea (later Swansea University).

At the time, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA was receiving large sums of government money to fund neuroscience research focused on drug and alcohol addiction. NIDA considered addiction to be a brain disease and addictive drugs were thought to ‘hijack’ the brain’s reward system, which was thought to use dopamine as a neurotransmitter. 

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Learning from the Experts

When I was a teenager, I competed in chess competitions around the UK, including the British Under-18 championship on two occasions. I was my county junior champion. To be competitive, I had to study chess theory and practice. I learnt from those people who were champions at what they did, including world champions. Not by being in the same room as them—although I did play Anatoly Karpov, who was later to be world champion, in a simultaneous exhibition—but by their games and introspections. I learnt from the experts.

You would have thought that people working in the addiction field would also be learning from the experts—the people who are in recovery, or are recovering, from a serious substance use problem. Many do. But… you’d be surprised to know that this goes on far too little, at least from my experience.

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Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational trauma—sometimes called transgenerational or historical trauma—amongst Indigenous peoples is the trauma that has arisen as a result of the historical experiences of colonisation (and associated violence and control), forcible removal of children, and loss of culture.

As it was not addressed at the time, this trauma (and associated grief) have been passed down unwittingly through the generations by peoples’ behaviours and thought patterns.

Today, this trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements.

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‘Our Recovery Stories’ Update

I just wanted to let you know that the eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction will be available from 9th April 2021. It will be available via Apple, Amazon or Kobo (price: £4.99, A$8.99, US$6.99, €5.99). I will provide links and any other relevant information shortly.

I have chosen this date for release, as it is my youngest son Sam’s birthday and is a day before Michael Scott’s, of Michael’s Story, 43rd Sober Anniversary. And I then learn that the 9th April is the 60th birthday of Kevan Martin, of Kevan’s Story. Couldn’t have chosen a better date.

Please note that the book will have to be read on a phone, tablet or a computer. I hope to publish a hard copy version at a later date. Here is what I have said in the publicity material:

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Drug Choices and the Loss of Choice

Various factors contribute to the initiation and early use of drugs and alcohol. As time passes, other factors also influence whether substance use continues. The vast majority of people who use drugs or alcohol do so without any problems. However, long-term drug or alcohol use can lead to addiction in a significant minority. (944 words)

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It’s Not Just About the Drug

The effects of a drug depend on an interaction between drug, person (set)  and social context (setting). These three factors also influence the likelihood of addiction and recovery from addiction (2,200 words).

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Treatment of Substance Use Problems

Formal treatment can help the initiation of recovery from addiction, facilitating a self-healing process, and help a person minimise the harms from their substance use (2,600 words).

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Beth Burgess Recovery Guide

A series of six short films on key issues by Recovery Coach, NLP practitioner & recoveree Beth Burgess. You can read Beth’s Recovery Story on this website, and find many more of Beth’s film clips on her YouTube channel.

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The Roots of Addiction

Gabor Maté stresses that addiction is an attempt to solve the graver problem of unbearable psychic pain. To understand addiction we need to understand that human pain can come from childhood experiences. The more adversity an individual experiences in childhood the higher their risk of resorting to addictive behaviour to sooth their pain, even temporarily. Addiction (alcohol, drugs, shopping, Internet, etc.) is an attempt to seek something from the outside that the individual is not able to generate from within. Child Health BC. [3’19”]

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult | Big Think | Big Think

Dr. Vincent Felitti, the co-founder of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, details the connection between childhood trauma and negative health outcomes in adulthood. Big Think. [7’15”]

The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power: Gabor Maté at TEDxRio+20

Canadian physician Gabor Maté’s theme at TEDxRio+20 was addiction – from drugs to power. From the lack of love to the desire to escape oneself, from susceptibility of the being to interior power – nothing escapes. And he risks a generic and generous prescription: “Find your nature and be nice to yourself.” TEDx Talks. [18’46”]

Ruby’s Healing Story

Marion Kickett, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, shares the harrowing story of Ruby and describes how her early experiences impacted on her life. By forgiving people involved in these terrible events, Ruby started a healing process which led to her realising a dream. Sharing Culture. [9’42”]

Don Coyhis: 2009 Purpose Prize Winner

Don Coyhis developed the grassroots Wellbriety Movement that provides culturally based healing for Indigenous people. The mission of The Wellbriety Movement is to disseminate culturally based principles, values, and teachings to support healthy community development and servant leadership, and to support healing from alcohol, substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, and intergenerational trauma. Encore.org. [3’12”]

Why the Need for Recovery-based Care?

A resonating message I have picked from many people affected by serious substance use problems over the years is their desperate need for hope (that they can recover) and understanding (of how to recover). Here is a blog I originally posted in May 2013.

There is a dearth of readily accessible information on how to achieve recovery, information that is also relevant to the day-to-day struggles and obstacles that people face in trying to overcome addiction and related problems. Many people do not know anyone who has recovered from addiction. Many find the treatment system to be disempowering and lacking in hope.

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‘How Do I Know a Treatment Service is Recovery-oriented?’: Mark Ragins

Some treatment services today say they are doing recovery—using recovery-based care—when they are not in fact doing so. So how do you know that you are going to receive genuine recovery-based care when you sign up to a treatment service claiming to be recovery-oriented?

Here is some help from Mark Ragins, a leading figure in the mental health recovery field, about what to look for in a service offering recovering-based care. Mark may be talking about mental health recovery, but what he says is of relevance to addiction recovery. I first posted this blog back in June 2103.

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Treatment and Recovery Disconnection

William White describes how somewhere in the process of the professionalisation of addiction treatment in the US, treatment got disconnected from the larger more enduring process of long-term recovery.

He points out that we are recycling large numbers of people through repeated episodes of treatment. Their problems are so severe and recovery capital so low, there is little hope that brief episodes of treatment will be successful. We end up blaming them for failing to overcome their problems.

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‘A Day With Dave’ by Annalie Clark

I posted this originally in July 2013, a day before lovely daughter Annalie headed back to the UK tomorrow, having spent a year here in Perth working as a doctor (along with her boyfriend Max) in the emergency department of  a local hospital. Over seven years later, Annalie is a psychiatrist working in the UK.

Here’s an article that Annalie wrote in the summer of 2005, when she had just finished her first year of medical training at the University of Edinburgh. It appeared in a June edition of Drink and Drugs News. The article is about Dave Watkins who used to be a top-class support worker at a treatment centre in Swansea.

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