I gave one of the plenary talks at the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association national conference this month. The theme of my talk was: “Addiction – Illness or crime?”
I was delighted after my talk to receive this feedback from Dr Sarah Carter, the General Secretary of the UKCPA.
“In a highly inspirational talk, Kevin C Dooley was open and honest about his former life of addiction, repeat offending and homelessness and the role that adverse events during his childhood had played in creating the conditions for him to enter this way of life.
One of 18 children, Mr Dooley’s father died when he was an infant. He was taken into care for several years before being passed around various family members. Having had no experience of a consistent, loving and secure environment, he grew up unable to relate to others.
With his first taste of alcohol he finally felt able to understand others, he felt included: “Alcohol and drugs were the solution, not the problem.”
He subsequently spiralled into addiction in order to maintain this level of inclusion with society. He told delegates that his first and only good relationships were with his son and daughter.
His addiction led to violence and crime which culminated in him serving eight years in prison, during which he was told that his 16-year old son had died from a drug overdose.
Mr Dooley’s talk centred around the scientific findings that adverse childhood events such as neglect, abuse and family dysfunction can prevent the proper development of important regions of the brain, resulting in long-term consequences on cognitive, language, and socio-emotional development, leading to both physical and mental health problems in later life.
The predisposition for addiction is explained by individuals using drugs, alcohol and criminal activity to relieve the chronic hyperarousal they experience on a day-to-day basis: “Addicts don’t take drugs to get high, they take it for relief from emotional distress”, he said.
His message to us? Don’t punish addiction, take the time to understand the person. Pharmacists can play a role in simply providing a caring and attentive interaction. Warmth and kindness is sometimes the best medicine.”