‘We just want support’

 I am 30-years-old and live in rural Dorset. All normal you may think – except I am a long-term heroin addict. The town in which I live once had the highest number of addicts per capita in the south of England.

I have abused most illicit drugs at one time or another, which has led to involvement with drug and mental health agencies. Thankfully, I am now making good progress on methadone.

Over the past few months I have become more involved with the town’s substance abuse drop-in centre. The centre runs one-to-one and group counselling, and trained volunteers offer advice or a friendly ear. All of this is much appreciated and needed by many local people and myself, but I do believe there is significant room for improvement.

I have been treated by both mental health and drug agencies and this has led me to compare them. But such a comparison is unfair as the local mental health service is far better funded and I have benefited from things as varied as therapeutic gardening to computer lessons. I feel lucky to have had such services at my disposal but I feel saddened that other addicts have not had such opportunities.

At the local drop-in centre I have enlisted the help of other addicts who, like me, are stable on methadone and looking for something to replace their life of acquiring money to buy more drugs.

This has been far from easy, as it is difficult to escape from the trap of addiction. Our intention is to raise awareness of what help is available and to improve local services.

So far we have produced a newsletter about the services the centre offers. We send this out with a questionnaire asking people their age, substances used and the duration of their problem.

We don’t want names or addresses but ask for opinions and suggestions, which may improve the service. With this information we have been able to gauge what is needed to move local addiction services forward.

We have already had many ideas for services, such as creative sessions where people can draw, paint write or make music. Suggestions have also included creating a carnival float and putting on drug educational plays in local schools.

Despite the enthusiasm we have found that there is far too much bureaucracy, but it is already proving worthwhile. One of the best ways of helping addicts is to let them shoulder some responsibility; this gives them self-respect and a recognisable place in society.

We do not want everything done for us, we just want support when we ask.  We can find funding for materials; we can come up with great new ideas. Each addict that becomes involved in the project brings new skills therefore we grow and recover together.

If as a professional you are in a position to encourage such a scheme then do. Addicts helping addicts to recover is the way forward. I am living proof that they are indeed viable and extremely worthwhile.

Richard Kellaway-Moore misuses drugs.

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