Derby professor to lead international study of Covid impact on drug addiction recovery

20 October 2020

An international study of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has had on the recovery of people suffering from drug addiction is to be led by a University of Derby academic.

David Best, Professor of Criminology at the University’s College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, will work with colleagues at other universities in the UK and in Europe, with the support of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

ESRC is part of the UK’s Research and Innovation agency (UKRI), which is currently funding a range of studies developed in response to the pandemic.

Professor Best and a consortium of researchers from the universities of Manchester, Birmingham, Ghent and Tilburg will assess the effects of the pandemic and societal responses to it on a group of former drug users who have described themselves as being in recovery.

The year-long project will build on the outcomes of a successful study of gender and national differences in addiction recovery in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Professor Best said: “This study represents the first major European longitudinal research study of pathways to recovery from drug addiction. In all three countries, we will use a structured questionnaire assessing functioning and wellbeing and, additionally in the UK, 30 participants will be asked to take part in an in-depth interview that examines their experiences of Covid and lockdown, and the impact this has had on their recovery.”

This original study, carried out over two years with the support of the National Institute of Health Research and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, led to 367 people providing a unique dataset on the impact of help-seeking and engagement in peer support groups on the ability to sustain and build a successful future.

Professor Best added: “One of the key aspects of addiction recovery, identified in the initial study, is the importance of meaningful activities and social support. What is so important and timely about this new programme is that the pandemic and its response may have resulted in a rupture in recovery support as well as more general social support.

“We will assess what effect this has had on the wellbeing and functioning of this population, and what the risk factors are for relapsing to substance use.”

Professor Clare Brindley, Dean of Research at the University of Derby, said: “The impact of Covid on all of our lives is the focus of global attention at the moment but for some of the most vulnerable groups in society, it is particularly acute. When recovery from long-term addiction is at stake, it can be a matter of life or death.

“For the University of Derby to be leading an international consortium of major research centres in this critical piece of applied research, further demonstrates our commitment to making a difference both locally and globally.”

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