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Life of recovering drug addict Mike Arnold transformed by pioneering treatment

By Jodie Nesling

A recovering drug addict who spent thousands of pounds a month on cocaine as his life spiralled out of control says he has been transformed thanks to a pioneering new treatment.

Mike Arnold, 33, from Boughton-under-Blean, says he has suffered 12 years fighting his addictions, suicide attempts and struggle to get the right help.

But now he says the “mind-blowing” scheme called Open Dialogue, being delivered on a trial period by the NHS, is helping to treat the underlying health problems and putting him back on track.

He receives the treatment through the Forward Trust, the provider of east Kent drug and alcohol services, which has a centre in Wincheap.

Mike Arnold says new therapy is helping his recovery
Mike Arnold says new therapy is helping his recovery

He explains how he developed bad habits as a teenager. “As 16 and 17-year-olds we’d sneak into the pubs and at the weekend we’d go into Canterbury and the clubs,” he said.

Mike fast-developed an addiction to alcohol and, by 26, after his marriage collapsed, he started dabbling in drugs.

“Cocaine is everywhere,” he says, “and it astonished me. It took one line and that was it – that is all it takes for an addict like me.”

When he started working as an electrician’s mate in London - leaving his home early and returning late - Mike started using cocaine to keep him awake, allowing him to go days without sleep.

He said: “I was spending more on cocaine then I was earning so I took a credit card out and spent £6,500 in a few months. It was absolutely crazy.”

Having sought help, he received treatment at the centre in Wincheap under previous service providers.

He explained: “I was in and out of their service for three years but there was so much paperwork and my key worker could not do much within the hour.”

When drug treatment charity the Forward Trust took over last May, it ushered in a number of changes, including better partnership working between it and NHS mental health services. It also started to use Open Dialogue (OD).

Mike battled for years to beat his drug habit. Stock image
Mike battled for years to beat his drug habit. Stock image

A mental health treatment model originating in Finland in the 1980s it has led to positive results in recovery, return to employment and reduced medication.

It aims to deliver an immediate response when a client is in crisis, the same key workers throughout the care and all clinical and care decisions being jointly made with the client and family.

Father-of-two Mr Arnold experienced the scheme in action following a major breakdown last year.

He explained: “It was one of the worst ones I have had and I was put back through the NHS crisis team. They then put me though OD which is fantastic. It blew my mind.”

The fire and security officer says two support workers from OD arrived to speak to him and would then talk about him while he was still in the room so he could hear all the discussions about possible treatments.

He said: “Things have clicked and fallen into place. I could not thank them enough. If anyone reads this I hope they will think about getting help.”

For details see eastkentdrugandalcohol.org.uk or call 01227 826400.

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