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NETWORK A national newsletter on substance misuse management in primary care
Special supplement
in this issue
Is ‘recovery’ splitting the drug
treatment field?
There is an interesting debate in the drug treatment
field at the moment about the meaning of ‘recovery’.
Can the definition of recovery include those who are on
maintenance substitute medication? This discussion
has its roots in the debate about what was felt to be
‘good treatment’. SMMGP have always thought that good
treatment should be patient-led, and should involve a
spectrum of approaches ranging from abstinence to
harm reduction. This is a view held by large sections
of drug treatment professionals; however it seems that
some at both ends of this spectrum see their approach
as the ‘right’ approach and the discussion regarding
The result of the meeting is a consensus statement:
abstinence philosophies as opposed to harm reduction
“Recovery is a process, characterised by voluntarily
philosophies has somewhat polarised the field. There
maintained control over substance use, leading towards
is a feeling on the one hand that treatment services are
health and well-being and participation in the responsibilities
failing to offer abstinence as an option for patients, and
and benefits of society”
on the other hand that the emphasis on abstinence is
eroding a harm reduction approach and influencing More detailed information can be found on
policy (the Scottish Drug Strategy and the Conservative
Party document ‘Breakthrough Britain’ contain a far
greater emphasis on abstinence than the current drug SMMGP is keen that the debate regarding recovery is productive
strategy in England). and we invite people to air their views on our website’s online
forums in the hope that we can have
In response to this polarisation, the UK Drug Policy Commission an open debate that leads to a greater understanding of people’s
(UKDPC) felt that a definition of ‘recovery’ that would encompass beliefs and to an improvement in the service we give to patients.
all aspects of the debate might help to unite the field. In March To contribute to the debate we have included two views on
2008 the UKDPC invited 16 individuals to take part in a two-day recovery in this edition of Network. Anthony Hewitt discusses
consensus meeting; the group encompassed a wide range of what we can learn from natural recovery by looking at the large
perspectives and included: several people in recovery; family numbers of people who become drug and alcohol free without
members of people in recovery; and professionals from services the support of treatment services. Mike Ashton discusses the
providing the full range of care and support. Services represented potential affect of the growing debate regarding recovery on the
included: those using a 12-step approach; maintenance drug treatment field in his article Flag in the breeze; we have
prescribing; general practice; residential rehabilitation; peer and published this article as a four-page supplement.
family support groups; and service commissioners. Participants
also came from different parts of the United Kingdom and were While you are on our website, please join SMMGP for free, and
of different ages and cultural backgrounds. receive our regular clinical and policy up-dates, as well as being
invited to participate in our regular members’ survey, the next
The aim of the discussion was to identify common ground and of which will be on the concept of recovery. The findings of the
develop a shared understanding of the process of recovery that member’ survey will be published in the next edition of Network,
would encompass the wide range of individual experiences and as well as on the website.
the differing contributions that treatment and support services
make to assist those to achieve and maintain recovery. Jim Barnard, Chris Ford, Kate Halliday, SMMGP.
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