The Priory's Dr Neil Brener: 'I'm not running a hotel'

Checking in is simple, says Dr Neil Brener of the Priory but the next few weeks may be the toughest of an addict's life
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Rehab is not a magic black box that you can step into and automatically be cured; all we can do is get people on the pathway called recovery. I often tell people when they come to the Priory, if they want to go and stay in a fancy hotel to have a rest then please don't come this is about intensive treatment; it's not a holiday camp. We start at nine in the morning and finish at nine at night, with few exceptions. There are no gyms, no massages and if that's what you want there are much better and cheaper hotels than this.

I've been a doctor for 23 years, a consultant for 15 and have been interested in addiction for as long as I can remember. There are fashions and phases in the types of addiction we see, just as with anything else, but addiction itself is nothing new. The overall drug of choice in this country is still alcohol, just as it was 100 years ago but, believe me, we see everything here, from drugs and shopping to sex, gambling and internet addiction. We also provide treatment for people suffering from panic attacks, depressive disorders and anxiety.

The typical person who comes through our doors is normally in crisis, getting towards what we call their rock bottom (we accept referrals from the NHS and the independent sector). We are not dealing with people who have a sherry after dinner; these people are utterly desperate, begging for help and some of them perceive treatment as their last hope. We are here to help save people's lives because certain addictions have a significant mortality rate. In my view, there is no difference whatsoever between celebrities, bankers, cleaners or whatever. An addict is an addict.

Most people in treatment centres such as the Priory stay about four weeks and come back as day patients over a period of six or seven weeks. Everyone must have a full medical examination before starting the first step to recovery: detoxification. The next phase is the intensive psychotherapy treatment programme, and in my view this is best carried out in groups with experienced therapists. Group therapy is compulsory and you cannot dip in and out; there are strict rules and regulations and I throw people out if they don't follow them. They are then encouraged to attend aftercare, including one-to-one and group therapy and that would be a standard treatment package. A few patients need more than one bite of the cherry, and require one or two attempts at treatment before it starts to work for them. Then there are some people who aren't ready for help, which is desperately sad and some of them will die as a result.

When people ask me whether there is such a thing as an "addictive personality" I have to say that in my experience there certainly appears to be a dependent personality type, although scientifically this has not yet been fully shown. The abiding characteristic of an addict is emotional avoidance. People who cannot cope with their feelings might use a substance to feel instantly better, but this will only give temporary relief. When people come here to seek help for their addiction they are usually desperate, but once they get swept into treatment it can be quite an amazing turnaround. *

Dr Neil Brener is the consultant psychologist and medical director of the Priory Hospital, north London, www.priorygroup.com.

Addiction in numbers

Drug abuse costs an estimated 18.8bn a year in England and Wales

1 in 13 people in Britain are dependent on alcohol

12 Sexaholics Anonymous groups operate in the UK

76 per cent of men, 68 per cent of women and 75 per cent of teenagers have gambled in the past year

1.15m Britons have a diagnosed or undiagnosed eating disorder

37 per cent of young men and 23 per cent of young women binge-drink regularly

20 per cent more children entered rehab in 2007 than in 2006, according to a Drugscope survey

1 in 4 beds in male hospital wards is occupied by someone with an alcohol-related illness

89 per cent of the musicians behind the 10 best-selling albums of all time admit regular illegal drug use

5,037 children were treated for cannabis abuse in 2006/07

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