Great reaction from the UK Clinical Pharmacy Assocation

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?”

You can download a copy of my presentation here.

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.”

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Speaking to the Lancashire User’s Forum

Kevin speaking about recovery from addiction to Red Rose Recovery group in Preston

Kevin speaking about recovery from addiction to Red Rose Recovery group in Preston

On Wednesday 10th June I was invited to Preston, Lancashire as guest motivational speaker to the delivery arm of Red Rose Recovery, The Lancashire User Forum (LUF) at their Central LUF Forum Meeting. My talk was entitled ‘Sharing To Motivate And Inspire’.

The delegates included professionals from the NHS, from rehabilitation agencies based in the community and criminal justice sector, and service users, who because of LUF have a massive coherent voice and are able to become involved and participate greatly in the delivery and policy of drug and alcohol treatment services.

Speaking in public in a new area to new people can be daunting but on arriving at the event in Preston, the immediate welcome I received from strangers I’d never met was deeply warm, considerate and caring. This made it easy for me to feel quickly that here, in all sincerity, I had new friends.  As a group, and with each of them, I felt at one.

My talk referred to my experience of recovery, my career, what I have learned professionally and personally that I consider being important and necessary to achieve a flourishing successful recovery. I also spoke of my main assumptions on present addiction treatment, on how lack of insight and appropriate attitude and knowledge by drug workers are linked to not achieving positive outcomes, the causal link of stress to addiction, and the neuroscience behind understanding addiction as an illness.

I am glad that what I had to say resonated with service users and workers alike. The comments I received, and the conversations I had with delegates after my talk, confirmed that if we don’t understand addiction, we won’t understand recovery from it, or people experiencing it.  And this has to be addressed through new training and new awareness for anyone working with people experiencing addiction.

To meet people at different stages in recovery from addiction, giving a helping hand to the other guy and taking part in events like LUF no matter what is happening for them or the difficulties they face, I find amazing and is great example to people just finding recovery.  The strength and the integrity I felt from the people I met I carried all the way home, it will never leave me. Later that night it hit me just how deeply moving I found meeting people, against every adversity, flourishing full of courage in recovery.

Organised and active, the service users at LUF I met were glowing and it’s clear that they hold dear the ethos of giving back to the community and changing the negative public perception of people experiencing addiction. This seems to me to be at the heart core of this brilliant movement and organisation.

Thanks to CEO Red Rose Recovery: Pete Yarwood , and Media Lead: Michael Reynolds and Michael Holt