A breathe of fresh air on policy

A great sense of perspective from a treatment provider. I’m a fan!

As an advocate for abstinence, Oliver might be expected to defend this option to the detriment of others. On the contrary, she refuses to be drawn into a dispute that, she says, is not only divisive, but misses the point. Abstinence is not about telling all addicts that the only way to “move forward” is to stop suddenly, she says – “it’s about providing choices”.

Any limits on the prescribing of methadone would, she says, be the “antithesis of individualised care” and “may actually put lives at risk”. There is no need for a fissure in drugs policy, she argues. The first treatment an addict receives is about “stabilising the chaos”, and if that means something other than abstinence, so be it.

As she puts it: “[Drug policy] has been very good at getting people into treatment. We’ve been very, very good at stabilising them [with methods] such as methadone. What we haven’t done and must do is look at what can be done next.”

Referring once more to her own struggle to give up drinking, she adds: “The reality is, you can’t just put the drink or the drug down. Something has to go with it – people need support as well.”