ADDICTION HEALTHCARE: Prevention. Intervention. Primary Care. Outpatient Continuing Care & Recovery.

Psychotherapist, London.
Registration no: 0615

Elizabeth Hearn is a UK based addiction healthcare clinician, psychotherapist and counsellor with 31 years of personal recovery from opioid addiction and 30 years of specialising in evolving addiction healthcare.

My areas of expertise include research, mental health, clinical practice, medication-assisted treatment, treatment innovation, co-occurring issues, detoxification, and heroin and prescription drug addiction.

I continue to spearheaded implementing addiction and mental healthcare A&E clinics within NHS Hospital setting where clinicians and peer-to-peer lived experience volunteers work side by side to assess for treatment people in a crisis who are seeking help in managing their additive behaviours.

This is high-level initiative to educate and train doctors, nurses, first responders, and all associated healthcare professionals in addiction medicine in partnership with the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

My recovery tribe is global. There are about 28 million people in recovery across the planet. Many of us maintain the importance of upholding anonymity, doing service and reaching out to the still suffering addict.

I learned a significantly valuable lesson when I lived in India amongst the local village women, to give people what they need, not what I think they need…ultimately we learned from each other…it was the end of suffering for me…my self-imposed “pain prison” no longer held any power over me decision making processes…

I begin and end each day with a silent meditation – a return to love, calmness and peace of mind.

My neurobiopsychosocial approach continues to evolve, influenced by social change, vulnerable people achieve recovery. Professionally sustained by up-to-date addiction medicine research, and evidence based therapeutic protocols.

April, 1988 I endured a family intervention that was exquisitely painful for all of us…my family and partner were worried about the progressiveness of my addiction to opioids and terrified I was going to kill myself…

I was angry, and hurt. I had been “found out.” The time for excuses, promises to change etc had run out… no longer an option, they knew enough to know I could not recover alone…

I spent a month in treatment. Sadly my denial and disconnecting from reality blocked me from fully engaging in the therapeutic process…eclipsed by shame, anger and fear – my critic grew louder day by day…telling me I pathetic, horrible, person…

With no defence against that first drink, by the time I arrived at the airport,I headed straight for the duty-free shop…and then the toilets to switch Vodka into an Evian bottle of water .to wash down the valium… I came out of blackout several hours later having no recollection of how I got home from the airport..and back into my apartment.

The next few months blurred into a cycle of craving, binge, purge, compulsivity, depression and anxiety. Every morning I would say, today I will I stop using….and for a few days, I would…eat, sleep, begin connecting with friends…but too ashamed to return to recovery meetings..I was disconnected from reality, family, friends, suicidal… eventually the pain of living became unbearable, despite a failed suicide attempt…I knew I needed to get help….

31 years ago the person sitting opposite me in A&E Hospital in NYC saved my life. Her training in addiction medicine meant that I was not dismissed, instead I was properly diagnosed, perhaps for the first time I accepted that I needed professional help.

I immersed myself in 12step meetings, found a longterm 12step sponsor to work through the 12steps and traditions and a therapist to support me as I went deep into healing from childhood trauma.

My compassionate approach, addiction recovery insights and personal disclosure embodies the complexity of addiction, the challenges of recovery, and the evolving existentialism of long term recovery: living life on life’s terms is surrendering my will to power on a regular basis.

That person who helped me begin to recover from addiction health crisis impacted and interrupted by a failed suicide attempt was an addiction trained psychiatrist, in a NYC, A&E Hospital setting.

Her suggestion, based upon her assessment of my propensity to relapse, began post rehab and I was too afraid of being judged a failure to re-engage with 12step meetings, and the recovery community.

This was different. I was desperate. I had nowhere else to go…so I followed all the suggestions in my early recovery to stay away from familiar people, places and things that would perhaps case me to relapse…fortunately the cravings stopped the day I committed to my recovery, 12th October, 1988 and have not returned.

Recovery is a process… my NYC therapist knowledge of the American Society of Addiction Medicine changed my thinking about “what is addiction?” from one of moral failing to medical disorder….

Beginning on a path to substance use recovery for many people may not begin the way mine did in an A&E setting with a choice: be admitted for a medically assisted detox, or return to 12step meetings and connecting with recovery community.

In my role as an additions clinician and recovery advocate I continue to seek out ways to reach people who aren’t likely to engage with traditional healthcare systems, and it is my wish to establish A&E Addiction Healthcare Clinics (more about in the attached document) when people are ready, that links them to many options for healthcare, mental health care, and substance use treatment.

I credit my addiction training as being key to this proposed addiction healthcare innovative approach to serving people with substance use disorders — from understanding the impact of social determinants of health, to respecting an individual patient’s autonomy.

Clinicians and Scottish Recovery Consortium recoverists/ lived experience paid workers working side side whose collective experience in addiction in an A&E setting will provide a supportive pathway of support to a vulnerable population.

Under-resourced clients face challenges in accessing add-on healthcare and or linking together the different aspects of their healthcare.

They may have a GP appointment in one location and a hospital visit in another. For a person without reliable transportation, having to arrive to an appointment on time can be a hurdle. For someone involved in the criminal justice system, stigma and can be a deterrent for engaging in care.

Easy access: programmes and interventions can be established to help people feel safe, regarded and welcome, and this approach is more likely to produce positive future outcomes.

The American Society Addiction Medicine frame synced in with my recovery continuum of self-care….1-1 and group therapy, developing boundaries, ego strengths, resilience and recovery from trauma was held within the safety of therapy rooms, and small 12step meetings.

My home group was started by Betty Ford, who visited regularly to share her experience, strength and hope with us who remained in awe of her humility, grace and calmness.

My recovery tribe has grown throughout the years, I love the sharing of wisdom from peers, colleagues and people who inspire me to thrive…our collective primary purpose is to end the silence and stigma of addiction and mental health issues.

We are not silent. We are not alone. We are courageous, compassionate human beings.

Self -discovery sounds so much inviting than self-seeking, being of service is about connection, communication and collaboration: being available, present, and purposefully in the moment- becoming an asset within the community takes time to establish trust, and confidence in the recovery process.

My long term recovery experience continues to evolve, I love to raise awareness and inspire change in others… a continuing compassionate inquiry into understanding how our greatest challenges transform us by becoming valuable resources, assets, insights in the the human condition, and expressed compassion for the benefit of others.

I have helped hundreds of people recover. My commitment to addiction recovery extends to the wider community, I am proposing to UK Health ministers that we work together to implement addiction medicine trainings for all healthcare professionals and front-line first responders – with people in acute to crisis stages of addiction.

Addiction is complex to treat. Recovery is sustainable when the process is supported by holistic well being therapies: nutrition, EMDR, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, mindfulness meditation for stress management,and regular engagement with recovery communities via meetings and workshops.

Addiction impacts the immune system, the recommend establishing autonomous ADDICTION HEALTHCARE CLINICS in A&E-NHS Hospitals. Interdisciplinary teams with the additional benefit of lived experience volunteers work side by side with clinicians, and healthcare professionals.

I am an evidence and research based addiction clinician. Saving lives is what is needed. The quality of addiction treatment needs to accessible, 24/7. Lets make that happen.


“To be a more successful country we need to see an overall improvement in our population health, and we need to close the gap between the health of our wealthiest communities and the health of our poorest.

Only through an effective partnership can we make the best use of our collective resources and work together to tackle our most difficult challenges – making a real difference to the prosperity and wellbeing of our communities.”
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland

Addiction is not a criminal justice issue but a public health issue which requires specialist training and insight into the medical and biopsychosocial nature of the illness.

Let’s transform the way in which vulnerable, people at risk access addiction healthcare. People have a right to be treated, not dismissed, and discharged.

However, due to cutbacks, long waiting times and lack of experienced in addiction trainings first responders, doctors, nurses and associated healthcare workers, people are being turned away instead of receiving treatment.

It is not good enough to say implementing addiction healthcare will cost millions, addiction and mental healthcare are already costing billions globally:
loss of income, loss of family, loss of life.

I am committed to overcoming prejudice, stigma, isolation and shame by personally striving for 24/7 within established A&E NHS Hospital settings, accessible inpatient and outpatient addiction public healthcare programmes to combat the opioid crisis, treat addiction and COD: the coexistence of both a mental health and a substance use disorder is referred to as co-occurring disorder.

Recovery-oriented care is prevention, intervention, medically assisted detox, inpatient and outpatient continuing support, and connecting with a recovery community. Recovery is a way of life, an attitude, and a way of approaching life’s challenges. The need is to meet the challenges of one’s life and find purpose within and beyond the limits of addiction while holding a positive sense of identity.

Since the inception of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, clinical and recovery evidence demonstrates that when people engage in primary care addiction treatment, they have better outcomes than those not retained in treatment. Providing a safe place in which at risk, vulnerable people can be given a choice to engage in treatment is addiction healthcare human right.

Addiction is characterized by an inability to consistently abstain or reduce substance use, impairment in behavioural control, craving, tolerance, and interference with interpersonal relationships, occupational responsibilities, recreational activities, and emotional response.

Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission and recovery is about connection – lets engage vulnerable, isolated and disenfranchised, at risk people to a compassionate addiction healthcare care regimen.

Otherwise, without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and will often result in disability, or premature death.

And while the cost of addressing every facet of the addiction crisis is substantial, the cost of doing less than what is absolutely necessary is far more.

TOGETHER WE CAN: strengthen our nation’s addiction prevention and treatment infrastructure and expand access to evidence-based care is working in partnership with addiction trained clinicians to pursue bold, systemic solutions.

There is no time left for incremental policy changes – we need to come together as a UNITED KINGDOM to both implement and fund addiction healthcare programmes that will comprehensively combat untreated, complex, co-occurring chronic disease of addiction.

In January 2019 I initiated a partnership with the American Society Addiction Medicine to provide evidence based ASAM “Fundamentals in Addiction Trainings” and the ASAM Strategic Plan: a biopsychosocial evidence-based addiction healthcare treatment pathway that UK first responders, doctors, nurses need to be trained in to effectively treat addicted patients.

In addition to the ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Trainings” I am proposing implementing 24/7 Addiction Emergency Care Clinics within A&E-NHS settings an autonomous clinic and ward for primary care inpatient care facilitated by trained in the ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine” clinicians, first responders, doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, pharmacists, and associated healthcare professionals to work alongside the Scottish Recovery Consortium lived experience – support volunteers, 24/7 in addiction and mental health primary care integrated treatment programmes.

In my 28-year, professional role, as an addiction clinician, and a person in long term recovery (31years) I continue to advance the recognition of mental health and freedom from addiction as being essential to overall health. Such recognition and focus will help to improve access to and integration of addiction healthcare services, to support and sustain positive outcomes, and address gaps and disparities in service delivery.

Addiction medicine is a medical subspecialty, formally recognized since 1990, concerned with the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of persons with the disease of addiction, of those with substance-related health conditions, and of people who show unhealthy use of substances, including nicotine, alcohol, prescription medications, and licit and illicit drugs.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine, founded in 1954, by Dr. Ruth Fox, a psychoanalyst who in 1959 became the first medical director of The National Council on Alcoholism, an agency devoted to alcoholism prevention is a professional medical society representing over 6,000 physicians, clinicians and associated professionals in the field of addiction medicine.

She was founder and first president of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies in 1954 and wrote, lectured and taught extensively on the subject. She also maintained a private practice and was one of the first psychoanalysts willing to accept alcoholics as patients.

She was a fellow of several groups including the American Psychiatric Association, the New York Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, the American Health Association and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

The ASAM is dedicated to increasing access and improving the quality of addiction treatment, educating physicians and the public, supporting research and prevention, and promoting the appropriate role of physicians in the care of patients with addiction.

The ASAM Patient Placement Criteria uses six dimensions to create a holistic biopsychosocial assessment of an individual to be used for treatment planning:

• Dimension one is acute intoxication or withdrawal potential.
• Dimension two is biomedical conditions and conditions.
• Dimension three is emotional, behavioural, or cognitive conditions or complications.
• Dimension four is readiness for change.
• Dimension five is continued use or continued problem potential.
• Dimension six is recovery/living environment.

The ASAM plan outlines ambitious research goals aimed at leading scientific and medical progression in the field with renewed and redesigned goals amass to form a robust foundation and profound course of action in the spirit of the organization’s mission.
In addition to the ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Trainings”

Recovery-oriented care is prevention, intervention, medically assisted detox, inpatient and outpatient continuing support, and connecting with a recovery community. Recovery is a way of life, an attitude, and a way of approaching life’s challenges. The need is to meet the challenges of one’s life and find purpose within and beyond the limits of addiction while holding a positive sense of identity.

In partnering with the ASAM the opportunity is in strengthening the focus on the full spectrum of addiction medicine, science, treatment and care:
prevention, treatment, remission, and recovery.

The continuing efficacy of the ASAM’s guiding principles will continue to set standards, pioneer research, educate professionals and the public, and challenge stigma. ASAM will always endeavour to enhance the goal of treating addiction and saving lives.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s evidence-based training and Strategic Plan:

The ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Training”

The ASAM Strategic Plan


• The long overdue need for specialised addiction medicine training and treatment directives in which addiction/COD is treated concurrently with related physical health, and social issues.

• Addiction healthcare treatment that combines essential medical and psychopharmacology interventions uniquely tailored to each person’s needs.

The use of medications for the patient with addiction involving opioid use can be appropriate across all levels of care. Pharmacotherapy is not a “level of care” in addiction treatment but one component of multidisciplinary treatment. While medication as a stand-alone intervention has been utilized in North America and internationally, ASAM recommends that the use of medications in the treatment of addiction be part of a broad biopsychosocial intervention appropriate to the patient’s needs and to the resources available in the patient’s community.

Addiction should be considered a biopsychosocial co-occurring disorder, for which the use of medication(s) is but only one component of overall treatment.


The following is an extract from the ASAM Strategic Plan and provides guiding principles:

• Positive changes are seen as starting points for the recovery process: reduced harm, safer use, reduced use, moderation and potential abstinence.

• A comprehensive initial assessment will determine an initial personalized treatment plan based on substance use severity, the psychobiosocial factors, multiple meanings and functions of the behaviour, motivation to change, and insight.

• Effective treatment has a primary focus on engagement and therapeutic alliance throughout the assessment process that “starts where the person is” with compassion, respect and acceptance, because creating safety and support are seen as essential to the therapeutic outcomes.

• Teaching self-management skills to address urges and difficult emotions is often essential. An ongoing assessment throughout treatment deepens both client and therapist awareness of the addiction severity and its meaning and functions.

• Exploring the client’s resistance to change reveals the issues that need new solutions. As these issues are clarified, positive change goals around the substance use and these issues can be established.

And, finally, a personalized plan for pursuing these positive changes can be developed collaboratively between client and therapist. The plan may include a variety of therapeutic modalities, lifestyle changes, health practices and medications depending on the client’s needs.

I believe that appropriately trained medical staff, supported by trained volunteers with lived experience in personal recovery, can save lives, stabilise chronic to acute stages of addiction and negative prejudices which are common when dealing with these patients.

These efforts, in turn, can save lives, reduce the financial burden of treating addiction to the health care system and support the interdisciplinary addiction medicine team.

These specialised in addiction medicine clinics will conducts high quality research that can broadens and deepen the understanding of addiction treatment and care delivery.

Principles of Effective Treatment

Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behaviour. Drugs of abuse alter the brain’s structure and function, resulting in changes that persist long after drug use has ceased.
No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Treatment varies depending on the type of drug and the characteristics of the patients. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society.
Treatment needs to be readily available. Because drug-addicted individuals may be uncertain about entering treatment, taking advantage of available services the moment people are ready for treatment is critical. Potential patients can be lost if treatment is not immediately available or readily accessible.
Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse. To be effective, treatment must address the individual’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems. It is also important that treatment be appropriate to the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture.
Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical. The appropriate duration for an individual depends on the type and degree of the patient’s problems and needs.
Behavioural therapies—including individual, family, or group counselling—are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment. Behavioural therapies vary in their focus and may involve addressing a patient’s motivation to change, providing incentives for abstinence, building skills to resist drug use, replacing drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding activities, improving problem-solving skills, and facilitating better interpersonal relationships.
Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counselling and other behavioural therapies. For example, methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone (including a new long-acting formulation) are effective in helping individuals addicted to heroin or other opioids stabilize their lives and reduce their illicit drug use.
An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs. A patient may require varying combinations of services and treatment components during the course of treatment and recovery.
Many individuals have co-occurring disorders with other mental illnesses, treatment should address both (and all), including the use of medications as appropriate.
Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse. Although medically assisted detoxification can safely manage the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal and can, for some, pave the way for effective long-term addiction treatment, detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicted individuals achieve long-term abstinence.
Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective. Sanctions or enticements from family, employment settings, and/or the criminal justice system can significantly increase treatment entry, retention rates, and the ultimate success of drug treatment interventions.
Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur. Knowing their drug use is being monitored can be a powerful incentive for patients and can help them withstand urges to use drugs. Monitoring also provides an early indication of a return to drug use, signalling a possible need to adjust an individual’s treatment plan to better meet his or her needs.
Treatment programs should test patients for the presence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as provide targeted risk-reduction counselling, linking patients to treatment if necessary. Typically, drug abuse treatment addresses some of the drug-related behaviours that put people at risk of infectious diseases. Targeted counselling focused on reducing infectious disease risk can help patients further reduce or avoid substance-related and other high-risk behaviours.
Moreover, engaging in substance abuse treatment can facilitate adherence to other medical treatments. Substance abuse treatment facilities should provide onsite, rapid HIV testing rather than referrals to offsite testing—research shows that doing so increases the likelihood that patients will be tested and receive their test results. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has proven effective in combating HIV, including among drug-abusing populations, and help link them to HIV treatment if they test positive.
If nothing changes, nothing changes