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Speaking as an ex-intravenous heroin and amphetamine addict, having worked with struggling addicts for 15 years, I am of the firm conviction that they, like me, have convinced the medical profession that medication is the only route through detox. Addicts are coming into treatment with prescriptions for a whole variety of drugs these days prescribed by their family GP, and we then struggle to detox them from the medication!!

Addicts can be so convincing in their descriptions of the ailments to their doctors and they bully them with tearful statements like; “I feel like committing suicide if I don’t get something to take the pain away”. The tears are very nearly real and the self-diagnosis is always grounded in a sincere belief that they cannot get this without medication.


Very little credence is offered these days to the old school way of thinking, where the best a physically sick addict could look forward to for the first few weeks of their life without drugs would be a lot of close supervision, lot’s of Vitamin C, lot’s of TLC and a strong character on hand to guide and to support.

Some might say ‘the lunatics have taken over the asylum’. In the build up to the infamous prison riot of 1990 at Manchester’s Strangeways Jail, as a withdrawing heroin addict I really believed that I needed medication and I really believed that the prison officer would also believe it. It was 2:30 in the morning and I had not had any sleep for three days and nights; feeling vulnerable and weepy I pressed the bell for attention.

A very angry prisoner officer came to my door and peered in through the spy-hole. I stood back so that he could see how much I was in need of medication by showing him how much I was sweating, and I almost begged him; ‘boss, please, I need to see the doctor’. He took a passport photograph out of his shirt pocket, showed it to me and then said ‘ring this bell once more and you will need much more than a doctor”! I did not sleep that night, nor the next, but I accepted my only real option; ‘get on with it’.

On April 1st, 1990 I was sat at home watching the news as a riot broke out which lasted for four weeks, rooted in the inhumane treatment of prisoners, and I knew exactly what it meant. I then re-entered the prison system in June of that year for addiction-related crimes, just as it was being re-painted and put back together.


I visited the prison doctor for and he asked me “what medication do you think you need”? I put in an order for two sleeping pills per night and two Valium per day for one week, and got them.

And now, with hindsight, I have to concede that the fullest extent of my ‘medical condition’ was Psychological Vulnerability – I could not see anyway forward and the only way to survive was to return to chemicals  . . . any chemicals. As the chemicals from my addiction wore off, my sense of vulnerability, combined with the overwhelming wave of returning emotions, felt deadly. Little did I know that my vulnerability was actually a sign of life after addiction.

T. Byram Karasu, M.D. recently wrote for Psychology Today; ‘Psychological Vulnerability is a gentle strength. God wants you to say: “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses.” (2 Cor. 12:9) If you gain gentle strength, there will be no adversities in life but multifaceted manifestations of love and mystery. Your soul is seen only through your vulnerability, and the depth of your vulnerability corresponds to the depth of your innocence, your trustworthiness, and your compassion for other beings. At this level of vulnerability, you are fortified with the strength of God.

When you lose your ability to be vulnerable to others, everything you do becomes calculated. Even love and sex become items to be consumed rather than lived and shared. The invulnerable person can’t be happy even in small ways’. At Cherrywood House, we keep a sharp eye on those who find themselves first entering treatment, and especially on those who are emerging out of detox, because this Psychological Vulnerability is an inescapable facet of the transition between active addiction, medication detox, and the required state of early recovery where treatment must begin.