BBC Wales is reporting that alcohol and drug rehabs in Wales are facing closure because of a lack of clients. It reports that almost half of the 91 clients referred to rehab went to centres in England. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-16992896
I had four reactions to this story:
Just 91 clients referred to residential rehab? Either Wales has resolved its alcohol and drug problem, in which case we should all be told how. More likely is a policy or cultural issue in Wales that does not recognise the evidence that treatment works and that head and shoulders above all treatment options is abstinence-based residential in terms of getting people off, and keeping them off alcohol and drugs
That last point “keeping them off alcohol and drugs” brings me to my second observation. Why on earth are people still being sent out of area for residential rehab? My experience over the last 25 years is that people sent out of area are ill-served since they will not have a drug-free support structure on their return and the likelihood of remaining abstinent are remote. Why do commissioners waste public funds by continuing to send people out of area? An obvious response from some will be that here are no rehabs in their locality
That brings me to my third point, why aren’t there any rehabs? Why have commissioners failed to commission residential rehabs in their areas? Again, is it cultural or policy? If politicians are serious about tackling alcohol and drug addiction, then residential rehabs must be a corner stone of any strategy. Yes, it is often more expensive in the short term to send someone to rehab, but it is so much cheaper than keeping them on a maintenance script month after month and year after year.
My final point concerns abstinence. The word ‘recovery’ covers many approaches, including the ongoing prescribing of substitute drugs. Some use the phrase ‘abstinence’ to refer to being free from street drugs. I use the phrase to describe an individual being free from all drugs, including that most harmful one, alcohol. On this day, when the death of Whitney Houston leads the news, I am aware of reports that she had “kicked drugs” meaning cocaine and other illegal substances, but alcohol was never mentioned. Nor were prescribed drugs.
I don’t know what killed Whitney Houston, but I would suspect drugs and alcohol played a part. Like Amy Winehouse, like Michael Jackson, like so many known and not known individuals, a failure to direct them into abstinence is the ultimate neglect of individuals and the system.