Noreen Oliver

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Noreen Oliver

Noreen Mary Langan

(1960-04-23) 23 April 1960 (age 61)
Known foractivism; founder of addiction treatment centres

Noreen Oliver MBE (born 23 April 1960) is a British businesswoman, rehabilitation centre owner and advocate of drug and alcohol policy reform. She is the founder and CEO of addiction treatment centres in Burton-upon-Trent and Clayton, Staffordshire.


She attended Christ the King Catholic Voluntary Academy, Nottinghamshire. She completed O-Levels in English, history, domestic science and science. She received a postgraduate degree in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. From 1975 to 1998, she worked in various positions and industries, including as a dental nurse, director of patient services at a private clinic, pharmaceutical representative, healthcare liaison worker in the community, and marketing manager and volunteer at the Nottingham Clinic.[1]

She began drinking at age 16 and suffered from alcoholism for years; her first alcohol detox treatment was at age 25. She recalls, "I was a functioning alcoholic. I held down two jobs. But towards the end there were emergency admissions to hospital. I had consultants screaming that I was going through liver failure."[1] By 1992, at age 31, she was drinking a bottle of gin a day[2] and was hospitalised with cirrhosis. She was malnourished and weighed just 6 stone (84 lb); her stomach was so shrunken that she was unable to eat.[3] At one point she was so ill she was given last rites by a priest; after surviving, she vowed to turn her life around.[4]

She attempted detox nine times in total.[1] After her near death experience, her family arranged for her to attend a rehabilitation clinic in Nottingham. She recalled, "I shared a room with a female crack addict who also worked the streets. This was a completely alien thing to me and, at first, I was horrified but soon realised she was not so different to me."[3]

She stopped drinking completely in 1993.[1] She soughts doctors' advice on how she could help others and ultimately founded her own treatment centre. "I started in two rooms, remortgaged my home, and it began to grow from there."[3][5]

Recovery centres and activism[edit]

In 1998, she founded the Burton Addiction Centre, now the BAC O'Connor Centre, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and in 2002 opened a second BAC O'Connor Centre in Clayton. She has stated that BAC has one of the highest rates of success for helping people rehabilitate from drug and alcohol addictions and integrate into society. In 2011, she told the BBC that the centre's figures show 74 percent of drug users and 83 percent of alcoholics being sober two years after completing the 18-week programme; the UK national average is 30 percent sober six years after treatment.[3][6]

The centre earned the highest scores in the United Kingdom from the Healthcare Commission in 2006[7] and has become nationally renowned, eliciting praise from Prime Minister David Cameron. The Staffordshire County Council plans to use the BAC O'Connor Centre as a template to open other similar centres across Staffordshire.[8]

Oliver established the O'Connor Gateway Trust,[9][10] a charitable organisation that helps recovering drug addicts and alcoholics gain the necessary skills and qualifications for employment, and to provide a safe, social environment free from drugs or alcohol for recovering addicts. The trust also runs Recovery Is Out There (RIOT), a community group formed of recovering addicts who have been through the BAC programme. The group works to educate the community and provide support for other recovering addicts.[11][12]

In 2010, Burton Addiction Centre opened Langan’s Tea Rooms in Burton-on-Trent, a social enterprise that employs recovering addicts. Langan's Tea Rooms, which takes its title from her maiden name, was built in a former restaurant located in a historic building, Burton House.

Oliver is a strong advocate of abstinence-based recovery.[1] In 2010, she founded the Recovery Group UK, an alliance of academics, rehabilitation service providers and drug- and alcohol-related organisations. The Recovery Group UK is an advocacy group working toward what Oliver calls "a balanced, integrated, seamless treatment system focused on recovery."[1] Oliver was a speaker at the 2011 UK and European Symposium on Addictive Disorders (UKESAD) in London.[13][14]

She is a member of the Community, Voluntary and Local Services Honours Committee, a Cabinet Office committee that reviews nominations for national honours for merit and service. She is also a Director of The Centre for Social Justice, a leading Think Tank in the UK.


Oliver was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to disadvantaged people in Staffordshire, as part of the 2009 New Year Honours.[15]

In 2010, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Centre for Social Justice.[1] The recipient of the award is selected annually by the group's co-founder, MP Iain Duncan Smith.[16] She now sits on the CSJ's board of directors as chairman of the Addictions Working Group.[9][17]

Prior to the 2012 Olympics in London, Oliver was invited to carry the Olympic flame during the relay in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.[18]

She also won the Daily Mirror People's Award for Justice in 2006.[2][7]

Personal life[edit]

She has been married to Tony Oliver, a prison officer, since 2005. She has a stepdaughter and two grandchildren.[1]

As a result of her alcoholism, she suffers from diabetes[3] and damaged nerve endings in her legs.[5]

Through her activism she has become friends with former drug addict Russell Brand, who sought her advice about what to do with funds he had raised to help addicts.[5] She is interviewed in his 2014 BBC Three documentary, End the Drugs War, in which Brand visits the BAC Centre and attends a graduation ceremony for a recovering addict who had just completed the programme. He also visited the Langan's Tea Rooms; he subsequently opened a similar social enterprise, the Trew Era Cafe.[19] She also appears in Brand: A Second Coming, a 2015 documentary about Brand's activism.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h O'Hara, Mary (1 September 2010). "Is abstinence the best policy for addiction?". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Let's Do Them Justice". Daily Mirror. 20 November 2006. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Noreen's journey from the brink of RIP to MBE". Burton Mail. 9 January 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Noreen does the honours with MBE". The Sentinel. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Woodhouse, John (2 August 2014). "John Woodhouse meets: The woman Russell Brand calls 'the queen of the drunks'". The Sentinel. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Newcastle addiction rehab centre's 'high success rate'". BBC. 18 October 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Accolades". BAC O'Connor Centre. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  8. ^ Smyth, Rob (14 November 2014). "DRUGS: Burton Addiction Centre set to be used as a template on how to battle drug and alcohol problems across the county". Burton Mail. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Noreen Oliver MBE". Centre for Social Justice. Archived from the original on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  10. ^ "The O'Connor Gateway Trust". CharityChoice UK. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  11. ^ "About Us". RIOT Radio. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  12. ^ "RIOT – Recovery Is Out There". 23 August 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Noreen Oliver MBE". UKESAD. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  14. ^ "8th UK and European Symposium on Addictive Disorders". UKESAD. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  15. ^ "No. 58929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2008. p. 20.
  16. ^ "Centre founder scoops award". The Sentinel. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Ambitious for Recovery". Centre for Social Justice. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  18. ^ "LIVE: Olympic torch relay in Leicestershire - Day 2". Leicester Mercury. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  19. ^ Russell Brand: End the Drugs War, BBC Three, 13 December 2014

External links[edit]