A dishonest political agenda

From the Honorary President of the International Harm Reduction Association (page 8) [via PeaPod]:

I am completely in favour of helping people who use drugs to stop, if that is what they want. I assume that is what is meant by ‘recovery’. Working with anyone who has problems with drugs must start where the individual is and could involve a range of strategies. Harm reduction should permeate the services available to drug users, which should be used on the basis of evidence of effectiveness, including cost-effectiveness, and on the basis of allocating scarce resources in the most effective way on a population base.

I wonder about the evidence for his first statement. How many people has he or his organization helped achieve drug-free recovery? How many of the people they serve want drug-free recovery, and how many people can’t access services to achieve this goal? Do they track this information? Do they use it to advocate for more drug-free treatment services?

If so, great. We’re on the same side. If not, stop giving lip service to helping people who use drugs stop.

The recovery agenda is a dishonest political agenda, by which some treatment agencies are positioning themselves for a seamless transition to a Conservative government. It ignores evidence and relies on faith. It is becoming evangelistic. It is dishonest because it is completely undeliverable financially and it raises false hopes. It is not a public health approach.

Whoa! I’m not there to see for myself, so I don’t know if the U.K. recovery movement is a cabal of political conservatives or ideologues trying to exploit political conservatives. I see no political pandering on Wired in.

As a recovery advocate that is thousands of miles away, I see a frustrating parallel with discussions here. The HR advocates adopt a hyper-rational posture, denying that their values are reflected anywhere in their beliefs and practice while accusing recovery advocates of being close scientific cousins of intelligent design advocates.

What evidence do recovery advocates ignore? There is ample evidence that we can be as effective at treating addiction as we are with other chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and asthma. Should we reject the current treatments for those too?

Why is it undeliverable financially? Because the public doesn’t support it? Isn’t that the point of advocacy? Why quash advocacy work that is focused on improving the lives of the people you also advocate for? Why not collaborate to make sure a complete continuum is offered?

The basis of drugs work should always be harm reduction. It should always be public health-based and if it helps with public order that is fine with me.

Why is drug-free treatment incompatible with public health? I think it is, but it’s also important to keep in mind some of the limitations of public health models–tension between prevention and treatment is common in these arguments, Public health approaches always include the application of some values (even when we say they don’t), and they risk turning life and death decisions for entire classes of people into cold accounting exercises. For example, why do we cringe at a harm reduction/public health approach to female circumcision? (More here and here.)

One other observation. Mr. O’Hare did not the use of the word addiction or any its variants. Does that intimate something? It may be nothing (Really, I mean that.), but it make me wonder if he’s invested in framing as something other than a disease.

[hat tip: PeaPod]

2 thoughts on “A dishonest political agenda

  1. Addiction as a disease? Here in the UK? Have you lost your marbles mate?We've a long way to go on this one. I asked a bunch of psychiatrists, general practitioners and community psychiatric nurses I was presenting to recently: 'how many of you believe addiction is a disease?'. Less than a third of the crowded room put their hands up. A bad choice made by bad people, or at best a learned behaviour is how most would frame it here. Even in the recovery movement I'm afraid.I'd like to quote some of your thoughts on my blog on Wired In Jason, are you okay with that?By the way, learned a new phrase today: "hat tip". Had to look it up. I think it is an Americanism. It was Bernard Shaw that said we were divided by a common language!

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