Category Archives: Friends of Inspire Health and Mind
Following on from Part 1….
The six afternoon parallel sessions were split into two rooms. As I couldn’t split myself in two I went to the following sessions which were very interesting.
Tobacco Control & Marketing – Linda Bauld
The aims of Tobacco Control are; to reduce the harm caused, reduce the uptake of smoking, increase the amount of people stopping and reduce the harmfulness.
Smoking rates have declined in recent years although 21% of adults still smoke.
The 2011 5 year plan includes looking at Tobacco promotion, making it less affordable, better regulation for the sale of Tobacco, more help to stop, secondhand smoke and effective communication.
B&H’s new way of opening a cigarette packet increased their market share to 57.5%!!! This equated to 180 million in 18 months. Just for changing the packet! I pondered putting in a picture but I don’t want to trigger anyone! I was a bit dubious but I’ve just found this comment which suggests that the cooler the packaging the cooler smoking is considered maybe??
A great unique pack. Slight problem in that cigs do occasionally fall out if its dark and you open up upside down, but to be honest, they are cool!!
The next step is to make the packaging less attractive. Much to the horror of the Tobacco companies they will soon be required to only use plain packaging. This is after research which suggests that the effect of branding is very strong in both the uptake of smoking and reinforcing the continued habit. The plainer the packet also means people are more likely to notice the health warnings. The British American Tobacco company employ many different tactics to draw people into Tobacco use and keep them in its grip.
Just look at their website.
Internet & Gaming Addiction – Professor Mark Griffiths, Nottingham Trent University
Now this talk was right up my street. The speaker (I don’t know whether I can call a Professor ‘Mark’ or ‘Professor’ so I will call him the speaker!) has years of experience studying and researching gambling as well as internet and gaming addiction. He made a lot of sense.
He identified what he calls six components of addiction.
Salience – where the activity is the most important thing in the person’s life
Mood modification Feeling a high or a buzz from playing or on the other hand an escape or numbing, tranquillising effect
Tolerance - Increasing amount needed to achieve the desired mood
Withdrawal - Unpleasant feelings and moods when they can’t play or have not played for a while
Conflict – Their gaming and/or use of the internet causes conflict in their relationships or affects other activities and responsibilities in their lives
Relapse – Returning to previous levels/patterns of gaming or use
On the definition of what would constitute a gaming or internet addcition it’s a shady area. It could be if it is the most important thing in a person’s life to the detriment of all other areas. If the activity adds to or enhances life then that would be OK but if the activity detracts from life i.e by affecting health, education, work or relationships then addiction is much more likely. He also disputed that the belief that the longer you play a game or use the internet correlates with how addicted someone is. More so that it will be dependent on the person and their life circumstances.
The average age for Internet and gaming ‘addicts’ is maybe surprising ly late 20′s to early 30′s.
Anyway enough of that, I need to get on with the rest of this post so I can play Skyrim.
Food Addictions – Dr Suzanne Higgs
‘Food & drugs have similar effects on brain reward systems’
There are similarities in the brain scans comparing Dopamine levels with obese patients and those addicted to drugs
The Yale Food Addiction questionnaire can be used to ascertain the likelihood of food addictions. You can see it here.
There is no evidence to suggest that certain foods are more addictive than others although high fat and high sugar foods seem to be more of a problem. This may also be down to the sheer amount of marketing that goes into unhealthier products. You only have to go to a supermarket and look at the special offers. The vast majority are for treat foods.
I’m copping out here slightly but I’d made so many notes during the day by the last couple of sessions I’d given up. Oh well at least I’m honest!
No trip to Liverpool is complete without a trip to The Brink so we spent an enjoyable couple of hours there and indulged in some yummy non-alcoholic beverages and food before it was time for me to get the train home.
Hope you enjoyed reading both posts.
On the 22nd March 2012 Liverpool John Moore’s University hosted Liverpool Addictions Conference. I spent the day with Tim Bingham INEF who had flown over from Ireland and the HIT girls Maddie and Lucy O Hare as well as the lovely Marie Tolman. In addition to Drugs including Alcohol the plenary and parallel sessions covered other forms of addiction such as Sex, Food, Gambling, Tobacco, the Internet & Gaming.
Here is a brief overview of each session, a combination of the messages the speakers were getting across and my own musings.
Dr. Harry Sumnall introduced the day.
‘Addictions beyond substance use as behaviours driven by the same underlying factors’.
He spoke of a concept that I have often baffled my head over and that is why in society policy supports some addictive (and risky) behaviours but not others? Alcohol, Tobacco, Gambling are all risky and yet the Government legally allows them. Other (if we’re being honest and don’t read the Daily Mail) less harmful substances carry heavy penalties for their possession or supply. Well, we know the reason why. Money of course. Harry gave us some stats which were very telling. Annually the Government raise £15 BILLION on Alcohol tax, £800 MILLION is spent on Alcohol advertising. Unfortunately these figures equate to every £1 spent on education £100 being spent on Alcohol advertising. With the cuts in drug education this is even more depressing.
Professor Christian Muller talked about ‘Drug instrumentalisation’. Basically this means the non addicted use of pyschoactive substances as helpful tools for improving life and acknowledging there is a difference between addictive drug use and other use.
‘The vast majority of those who consume psychoactive drugs are not addicted’.
Really if you think about it we use drugs in this way legally all the time even if it is just Caffeine to wake us up in the morning. I’m interested in why people who use ANY psychoactive substance at all can judge another person. We all have our feelings of choice. Any of us can potentially take our pleasure to the point where it becomes more problematic to our lives. However, I think that we still need to get the message out there that there is a fine line (no pun intended) which can be crossed quite easily between less harmful use of drugs as ‘instruments’ and their problematic use. All use starts somewhere. We need to make people aware and as safe as possible. Another reason we need more preventative work out there.
He identified 9 behaviours that can be improved by the use of psychoactive drugs.
*Social Interaction *Facilitated Sexual Behaviour
*Improved Cognitive Performance/Counteracting Fatigue *Coping with Stress
*Self medication for mental problems *Sensory Curiosity/Expanded Perception
*Euphoria, hedonia & high *Improved physical appearance and attractiveness *Spirituality & Religion
Of course all of these are reasons people use substances but we need to prevent the use of any substances or behaviour becoming an ‘addiction’. We need to be pragmatic and not bury our heads in the sand.
You can see more about his research here.
Risk Taking Behaviour – Dr. Jon Cole Department of Applied Psychology LJMU
Now I liked this bloke. He began by defining risk taking as …
‘behaviour with an adverse consequence’.
He highlighted the irony of the acceptability of some risk taking behaviours as opposed to others (climbing Everest for example, life threatening situation yet people sponsor others to do it!).
Young people take risks to assert their independence, establish their own identity, gain peer approval, assuage peer pressure and immediate gratification.
As a society we want this, young people and old. We want to feel good as quickly as possible and get what we want as quickly as possible.
The concept of optimism bias explains a lot. He used the common example of smokers. They know that smoking can kill but will justify it by using a story of a 90 year old who smoked all their lives. While in most of my work optimism and positivity is important people need to get real too. Justifying the continuation of a risky behaviour using this optimism bias can only be a negative thing in the end. Literally the end in some cases.
The point he makes is that the immediate gratification, the good feeling we get from a substance or activity will far outweigh any thoughts of the adverse consequences. The ‘it won’t happen to me’ school of thought. This has implications for drug education too. Jon suggests that young people’s time perception will also mean that telling them about things that can happen to them in their distant future is basically futile. A combination of their skewed time perception and optimism bias will mean information and advice given really needs to be honed to be more effective. (Again this brings me back to thinking about the drug education cuts. Go the ConDems!…No, really, just go!)
Drug Policy – Professor Alex Stevens
After following him for a good while on Twitter this was the first time I had met Alex Stevens. His session was on Drug Policy and he compared the U.S model and the EU model.
U.S. Model – more abstinence based, poorer access to healthcare and benefits.
Consequences of this have been: Drug related deaths have increased, HIV rates have increased, prison population has increased. In short a FAILURE.
EU Model – Stronger welfare support, better health care & housing, pragmatic approach including harm reduction and psychosocial inteventions, Public health more of a priority and some countries successfully decriminalising.
Consequences are that drug related deaths are more stable and a decrease in injecting drug use and HIV.
It unfortunately looks inevitable that with the recent and future cuts in welfare support in the UK it will make things even harder for people and we’ll be taking on more of the U.S style of continuing to lock more people up and withdrawing support for the most vulnerable.
So it seems we need to cross our fingers that we adopt our European neighbours policies than our U.S overlords. How can I put this politely….? Surely we’re in bed with them enough? Where is the sense in continuing with failed policy?
‘Oh well if America are failing with it then why not us too?’
Next up Tobacco Control & Marketing, Internet Gaming Addiction & Food Addiction. My fingers are flying…..
Thanks for reading, as always.
Luckily this years National Service user conference was at Birmingham NEC so just up the road for me. Handy!
We had a stand next to our friends Maddie, Lucy and now of course Nigel at HIT. Unlike previous conferences most of our day was spent talking to people who came over to our stand and other exhibitors. Everytime I was going to venture to a speaker session I ended up chatting away to someone. My voice was gettting quite croaky by lunchtime! I was pleased at how many people were interested in the training but especially Emotional Freedom Technique. Talking about tapping and its benefits is always interesting ranging from people who have never heard of it to people who have used it themselves and hear of people’s lives changing because of it. It was a great opportunity to catch up with our friends and contacts and to meet some new ones too.
Birmingham’s very own SUGAR (Service User Groups About Recovery) have been promoting the new social media pilot project and website which I have been part of the planning for. There will be a new website launch in March which will be an interactive site (www.mylife4me.co.uk) for potential and existing service users to access information and advice and to share their experiences. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates on this.
We met some great people from Lancashire Service User Forum who were out in force but I think they just wanted us for our sweets ; ). It was good to meet local Changes UK who provide residential aftercare for people in recovery. All the way from Northern Ireland U-Turn Training were also exhibiting and they have recently launched their brilliant opiate overdose app.
If you like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter you may have already seen this video I posted from another local project i sore media. The great news is that they deservedly won the film award for it at the conference.
As with any events like this the best thing is meeting the inspirational people who have overcome some very difficult hurdles to get where they are and stay alive. It reaffirms why I work in this field.
I’d also like to mention Rie and Francis two lovely human beings, always a pleasure to see them and always free with their hugs.
Big thanks to Drink and Drug News Magazine for such a great day.
Thinking back to the panel on Stigma and Discrimination at the National Drug Conference in Dublin this month it was highlighted that we never read good stories in the papers. Bad news sells. Users get all the bad press but rarely do we hear of the success stories. Maybe we can’t change the newspapers or society’s hunger for bad news but the more positive messages we can get out there the better. Twitter gives me an opportunity to engage with some interesting people and this is the story of one of my Twitter friends. I thought it would be nice for Johnny to get his experiences heard.
When Johnny was 16 his grandfather passed way and soon after his grandmother. He had little understanding of how to deal with grief and death and began drinking a lot. One night he tried Heroin for the first time.
“It was my miracle answer; it took all the pain I was feeling away”.
He admits his understanding of addiction back then was that it was all in the head, a choice people made that could be controlled. His use increased to every Friday, then every Friday and Saturday and it wasn’t long before he was using every day. In the early stages off his addiction when he worked he remembers particularly bad times. One of these was when he was talking to a guy at work and found out one of his friend’s had died from an overdose. Again grief affected his use.
“I was convinced something would happen and the penny would drop but then I accepted that I was going to die an addict. I wrote a suicide note explaining to my friends and family how they would be better off if I was dead.”
Luckily before it got too far an unlikely source helped him…
“It was a policeman who came to tell me I was being watched on the town’s CCTV. He noticed my low mood and asked what’s up? I’d wanted someone to listen so I showed him the suicide note explaining how life would be better with me dead!!”
That was how Johnny was first directed to help and got into rehab which began a cycle.
“Every time I got into rehab I always seemed to have it in my head that I would still have to use again.”
He eventually began a relationship with his lifelong friend and it was made clear that drugs couldn’t be a part of it. Although he initially struggled with this, with her love and support he got his life back. Johnny also has high praise for Methadone.
“The reality is that Methadone allowed me to have stability, a fiancé and a life. I think it’s more addictive than Heroin but it gave me a chance to see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel”.
When I asked Johnny what he thinks would’ve helped him more along the way he simply said.
“Reassurance. No one had ever said to me how you are feeling is OK, normal, part of the process. You can do it Johnny”.
Johnny who used Heroin and other drugs for over 15 years is now 31, 8 months Heroin free and engaged to Hazel. They live in Ballymena, Northern Ireland with their ‘son’, their dog Marley. He is looking forward to getting married and getting back into work. He would also like to be able to help others recovering from dependency like him. He would like to say big thank you to all the people that helped him along the way especially Hazel and his big mate Jim.
This is a poem Johnny wrote for Hazel….
While I was looking for a perfect verse, so happy I was fit to burst
Acceptance, just 1 word. Cos u accepted me as I was, a junkie chasing a buzz
This is pure n simple truth, u welcomed me under your roof
At 25 you got ur own place, while i was still gettin off my face
When I was a teen I wanted to sell drugs, cos then id be one of the cool thugs.
How could I be such a fool, for flip sake I was still at school
I love you with all my heart and life would be bad if we were apart
There’s just one dream id like to come true, no more gear-just me, marley n you
I hate it when you cry cos youre my love and thats what gets me by
So, no more tears except for joy, me, you n our doggy boy!
No more madness cos thats the reason for ur sadness
I love u forever. xoxox
Ballymena, Northern Ireland
You can follow Johnny on Twitter @wjc80
I was lucky enough to be invited back to Dublin again to help at this year’s National Drugs Conference. I flew with Nigel Brunsdon Injecting Advice and now HIT Community Manager and we met Kevin Cundy of Frontier Medical Group at the airport.
It was held as previously at the Radisson hotel (great showers!). Tim Bingham of the INEF again pulled off the organisation of this big event and didn’t seem to stand still for three days but his efforts are very much appreciated. The conference consisted of plenary speaker sessions and break off workshops for delegates to attend.
The full programme of speakers can be seen on the INEF website.
On the Thursday morning we had a manic time registering everyone and it was good to see some familiar faces both from the real world and Twitter.
As always I tend to go to the sessions of my friends or people I know. Roweena Russell who was a big help with the recent tender I wrote delivered a session on how the website Hiwecanhelp has developed and can benefit organisations all across the UK. Check out their funky new homepage.
I also went to see the seriously inspirational Annemarie Ward who really got the delegates engaged. You can read all about the work of the UKRF and their principles are well worth checking out. They (Annemarie and Alistair Sinclair) are doing great work changing the face of recovery to bring everyone together to encourage choices in treatment and developing supportive recovery networks across the UK. See my previous post on the UKRF conference here.
It was good to see the HIT O’ Hare’s again and I’m looking forward to the fundraiser in Liverpool later this month. I also met Stephen Malloy (Scottish Drug Forum) and Julia Elspeth who were formerly just little thumbnails on my Twitter screen.
Of particular interest was a panel discussion on Drugs, Stigma and the Media. The panel consisted of:
Erin O’Mara, editor of Black Poppy, a UK-based health and lifestyle magazine produced by and for people who use drugs.
We were carrrying around this idea that we were wastes, wastes of spaces. . . when you go and seek treatment and you know they are treating you badly you think well I’m a junkie….it gets ingrained and it drives a big wedge and silences people.
Rick Lines, Harm Reduction International
Maureen Brosnahan, a veteran national reporter with the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
We need to be conscious of the language we use, junkie versus user, hooker versus sex worker, addiction versus dependency…
Kitty Holland, The Irish Times
Keelin Shanley, RTE
You can see the video of it below.
Good news is unfortunately not news. We are more likely to hear the stories of stereotypical users committing crime than the positive stories of people in recovery who have managed to get through difficult times. People who are stuck in their Daily Mail regurgitating views want the stories that perpetuate what they prefer to believe. They rarely look for what the real story is, the reasons why people may use problematically, attempt to understand dependency, happily keep the ‘us and them’ mentality while quaffing their own drug of choice, usually Alcohol and not recognising the irony or their hypocrisy. Ooh sorry, nearly a rant there.
Anyway, it was a brilliant couple of days and thanks to all involved both during the conference and socialising in the evenings too.
Thanks for reading.