Cocaine is not addictive, right?                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Eddie Gorman is the Project Manager at Harbour Ayrshire, a local charity that supports people with addiction issues.

“The opposite of addiction is connection”. - Gabor Mate


My name is Eddie Gorman. I’m the project manager of a local charity supporting people with addiction issues. Everyone at Harbour has lived experience of overcoming addiction, including me. For years, I was lost in the “storm of addiction” with absolutely no idea what I was up against. I made countless vain attempts to stop or control whatever substance was my current “brand of insanity” but failed miserably at every attempt.

One of my issues back in the 1990’s was the title of this blog. I didn’t think you could be a cocaine addict. I thought an addict was someone who used a specific substance a certain way, and at that time, I did neither. I had no idea about the disease concept of addiction or at that time, been introduced to the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) studies, widely recognized as predictors of early onset of problematic substance use. All I knew back then was, when I used cocaine I used more than I intended to and after the common ‘3 day bender’, subsequent suffering and my solemn oath of “NEVER AGAIN” I would return to it time after time with a mind-set of “this time it will be different”.

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to people who knew the answers to this conundrum, which had baffled me for 30 years. I was introduced to Cocaine Anonymous, a 12-step fellowship and my life has never been the same since.  I am now in long-term recovery and have worked in this field for the past 10 years.

An issue on the increase

We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of young people coming to us with cocaine addiction. Currently there is very little support in this area. This is not a criticism of the statutory services or the people that work in them, but an observation based on my experience supporting people to access help. The implementation of the MAT standards is making huge progress treating people “at risk “of opiate overdose, but there is no replacement for cocaine and in my experience, cocaine is having as much of a devastating impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. This does not look like reducing any time soon, in fact in my experience it suggests the cocaine problem is increasing at an alarming rate. I firmly believe this is a problem that must be further resourced and in a timely manner as we are losing the battle against cocaine addiction and also the lives of our young people to suicide (not recorded in the drug related deaths statistics).

In a previous role with Medics Against Violence I was a Navigator based in emergency departments in hospitals throughout Scotland. Navigators are support workers, some with lived experience, who connect with patients attending Emergency Departments. We worked with them in the community on discharge from hospital to help them to connect with services that can support them to make changes in their lives.

I’ve witnessed individuals presenting to hospital after suicide attempts or psychotic episodes on a regular basis due to their cocaine use and being discharged with little or no support. Again, this is not a criticism of the emergency staff, they are some of the most dedicated, hardworking and compassionate individuals I have had the pleasure to work with, but a sign of the times that people are presenting to already under pressure hospitals with social issues. The answers do not lie in already burdened statutory services or hospitals, but in the community with charities like Harbour Ayrshire. We work in partnership with statutory and third sector organisations to offer timely and effective social interventions for cocaine use.

What we do

Harbour (Ayrshire) are working in the community to bring support to individuals, allowing them to realise they have a unique contribution to make to the social, cultural, and economic activities in their communities. We allow people to grow and nurture healthy, positive, relationships based on honesty and trust, at first within our groups and then with their wider communities. All our projects are designed to create inclusion.

Volunteers are an integral part of the organisation. When we held our first Volunteer Recruitment Night, over 40 people attended, all looking to support us on this exciting new journey. With their help we began rolling out our hugely successful Peer Support Groups, including family support. We started in Irvine and have expanded to ten groups throughout Ayrshire, reaching from Girvan to the Garnock Valley.

Our next venture was the Community Support Vehicle. When I think of this vehicle, the word ‘redemption’ springs to mind. Not in a religious sense but in the precise definition of ‘a clearing of a debt’. The Community Support Vehicle allows our volunteers, most carrying the guilt and shame of a previous life, to embark on a journey of healing by paying a debt owed to ravaged communities by supporting people fleeing violence/abusive relationships or relocating homeless people to their new forever homes.

The out of hours helpline was established to provide support for individuals experiencing crisis during their most “reachable and teachable” moments. Ten trained volunteers offer emotional and practical support and signpost individuals to either Harbour Ayrshire or other relevant organisations.

Future plans

Harbour Ayrshire has a future vision of opening a residential rehabilitation facility in Ayrshire. We believe some people need to leave their communities in order to abstain and receive rigorous support in a safe space. This sent us to various parts of the UK where we built relationships with existing rehabs and allowed us to access treatment for the individuals we were supporting.

We developed Harbour Buddies to provide intensive one-to-one support before treatment (prehab) and during the difficult transitional period of reintegrating back into the community (aftercare). We were able to support 21 high risk individuals to treatment during our first year, preventing them from becoming statistics in Scotland’s drug-related deaths.

Last year over 1000 people received support through Harbour projects. our aim is to continue to shine our light into the darkness of addiction, illuminating a path that can lead them, their friends and families from the misery, terror and pain of addiction to a life of hope, opportunity and healing.


What changes needs to be implemented in your organisation to support individuals suffering from cocaine addiction? Could we listen more to the people with lived and living experience and begin to shape the service around their needs?

I know there is currently a “will for change” in Scotland and you, and the service you provide, are an integral part of that change.  

Eddie Gorman

Eddie Gorman, Project Manger, Harbour Ayrshire