Visiting UK Recovery Friends: Part 4 (Ash Whitney)

After leaving Wynford Ellis Owen and his lovely wife Meira in Creigiau (South Wales), I headed to Cilfrew, located close to Neath, to visit my great friend Ash Whitney, of Wired Up Wales, and his parents. Ash and I have worked together on-and-off for over 20 years now, starting not long after I launched WIRED (Web-based Information REsource on Drugs), which later became known as Wired In.

At the beginning of the new millennium, I received a small level of funding from the Welsh Development Agency, which at the time was the economic development agency for Wales, to develop and maintain an online resource that would help people in Wales better understand the nature of drug and alcohol use problems and how they could be overcome. Use of illegal drugs, in particular heroin, and excessive drinking were major problems in parts of Wales, particularly in areas suffering economic and social problems such as in the Welsh valleys. These problems had increased as coal mines in the valleys closed. 

A technician in my university department, Neil Carter, suggested I approach a web-developer friend of his, Ash Whitney, to see if he would build me a website.

I visited Ash in Cilfrew in late-2000 and we hit it off immediately. I asked him if he could build our first website, which would be a news portal focused on drugs and alcohol, that would provide links to key content posted on specialist and non-specialist (including the popular press) websites on a daily basis throughout the year. I hired Jim Young, a biomedical technician who had previously worked in my neuroscience laboratory, to help me run what Ash and I decided to call Daily Dose.

During my Professorial Inaugural Lecture in Swansea, I explained to my audience that I was changing ‘career’, from neuroscience to working in the community with people suffering from substance use and related problems. I then told them that I was now going to officially launch our first website, the drug and alcohol news portal Daily Dose. The next moment Daily Dose probably became the largest website (at least physically) in the world as I revealed it on the large screen in the main lecture theatre in the university (see image below).  

Daily Dose later became the world’s leading information portal on drugs and alcohol. It started to attract sponsorship, which was administered by our charity Wired International Ltd. The portal eventually attracted over 8,000 subscribers, was linked to by many major organisations in the world, and was top of many millions of listings on Google. Ash and I developed another portal, Drugs in Sport, in 2002, for which Jim Young trawled the internet daily. This website closed in 2007 due to lack of sponsorship funding, and Daily Dose closed in 2010 for the same reason.

In 2002, Ash and I collaborated to build the main Wired In website,, which contained sections for people suffering from substance use problems (either directly or indirectly), practitioners and the general public. There was also a Wales section. We later built, which offered a range of different sections focused on the range of work that Wired In was conducting (e.g. Personal Stories, Research, Education/Training). These websites ran for a number of years before they were superceded by my online community Wired In To Recovery.

I stopped running Wired In and the Wired In To Recovery online community at the end of 2012, by which time I was living in Perth, Western Australia. Ash and I had not worked together for about five years, but he then built me a new website, the one on which this blog is posted. The aim of Recovery Stories was to help individuals and families recover from addiction and mental health problems.

In 2018, I was working with Social Anthropologist John Stanton on a remarkable story of trauma and healing. This story concerned traumatised Aboriginal children living in the squalor of a 1940s government native settlement (Carrolup) in Western Australia who were inspired by their white schoolteacher to create beautiful landscape drawings that gained international acclaim, challenged a government’s racist policies, and inspired four generations of Noongar artists.

We decided that we needed to develop an online storytelling, education and healing resource, The Carrolup Story. Who else but Ash would we ask to develop this website? We were thrilled with the look and structure that he created for us. We launched the website at the end of 2018 and have recently celebrated our 4th birthday. John and I are very proud of this resource.

I have loved working with Ash over the years. We are still good friends today, even though we live on different sides of the world. We Skype each other fairly regularly to catch up on our news and discuss our mutual interests, which mainly focus on different sports. The Welsh rugby team is a major topic of conversation! My partner Linda always gets excited when she hears Ash and I talking on Skype, as she loves his Welsh accent

Anyway, it was great seeing Ash again in mid-September, after a period of several years. So much to catch up with, and it’s just so good to be together in person with a very special individual. Ash’s parents, Byron and Ros, have also been good friends for a very long time, so it was good to catch up with them again.

I look forward to my next IT venture with Ash, and my next visit to his home!