Case study

Leading a global effort for addiction recovery

Researchers at the University of Derby are leading an international effort to help people overcome addiction. In the UK, more than a quarter of a million people get in touch with drug and alcohol services each year. And the cost to the NHS of alcohol misuse alone could be as much as £3.5bn annually.

Recovery capital

The concept of “recovery capital” is central to the pioneering work being led by Professor David Best, from our College of Business, Law and Social Sciences. Recovery capital refers to the sum of resources necessary to initiate and sustain recovery from substance use.

Professor Best’s work has sought to develop the concept of recovery capital, allowing it to be successfully operationalised and measured in practice. His team in Derby comprises PhD students Beth Collinson and Zeddy Chaudhry and research assistant Lorna Brown.

The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System has estimated that nearly 280,000 people were in touch with drug and alcohol services in the UK in 2016-17. Our applied research will help us make a positive difference. And we are also looking to adapt the concept to deal with problem gambling. 

An international effort

Our researchers are working with partners at the University of Manchester, Ghent (Belgium) and Tilburg (Netherlands). And pilot work took place in Scotland and the US. This led to Groshkova, Best and White (2013) publishing the first validated scale, the Assessment of Recovery Capital (ARC), which has now been translated into seven languages.

This scale has been extended to create a version (the REC-CAP, Cano, Best et al, 2017) that can be used in treatment and recovery support sessions. An abridged version of the scale, the Brief Assessment of Recovery Capital (BARC: Vilsaint et al, 2017), has been developed in partnership with colleagues from Harvard Medical School.

The aim is for our concept and operationalisation of recovery capital to be widely used in research and in recovery support services across the globe, to support and help people overcome their addictions, and to enhance the science of addiction recovery. 

Asking the questions

Our current research is based around three main questions: 

Does recovery capital score predict long-term recovery outcomes?

This is being tested through a partnership with the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR), and a second partnership with Odyssey in New Zealand.

Can recovery capital measurement be used to support recovery wellbeing in different populations?

Work is being carried out in a number of settings:

Can the concept be applied beyond alcohol and drugs?

The department is being funded for the next two years by GambleAware to adapt the REC-CAP measure for use with problem gambling and to support recovery pathways in this area. This funding includes a new PhD studentship.

Gender differences

These three main questions are being addressed in a series of studies – both doctoral research and externally funded – that are developing the concept. But the most important is the REC-PATH study, which is a three-year study of gender differences in recovery pathways in Scotland, England, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The aim of the study is to look at triggers to recovery wellbeing and how they vary for men and women, as well as factors associated with the length of time in recovery and the policy and treatment context in each country. Our partners for this study are the Universities of Manchester, Ghent, and Tilburg, but Derby is the international lead for this partnership.

Our impact

The research is still under way but already it has helped treatment services to develop the way they support their users.  The research is helping people to build recovery capital to support their long-term wellbeing and their effective reintegration into society and into their community.  The REC-PATH study has influenced public policy in the UK, New Zealand and the US.

Our funding

The funding for REC-PATH is international but our component is funded by the National Institute for Health Research and the Department of Health. The adaptation of a gambling version is funded by GambleAware; and there has been funding support also provided by the Ministry of Justice. In partnership with Harvard Medical School, we are applying for funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

Best, D. (2019) Pathways to desistance and recovery: The role of the social contagion of hope. Policy Press: Bristol. 

Cano, I., Best, Edwards, M. & Lehman, J. (2017) Recovery capital pathways: Mapping the components of recovery wellbeing, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 181, 11-19. 

Best, D., Vanderplasschen, W., Van de Mheen, D., De Maeyer, J., Colman, C., Vanden Laenen, F., Irving, J., Andersson, C., Edwards, M., Bellaert, L., Martinelli, T., Graham, S., Hamer, R & Nagelhout, G. (2018) REC-PATH (Recovery Pathways): Overview of a four-country study of pathways to recovery from problematic drug use. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly (early online)

Collinson, B. & Best, D. (2019) Promoting recovery from substance misuse through engagement with community assets: Asset Based Community Engagement, Substance Abuse: 

Hamilton, S., Maslen, S., Best, D., Freeman, J., O’Donnell, M., Reibel, T., Mutch, R. & Watkins, R (2020) Putting ‘justice’ in recovery capital: Yarning about hopes and futures with young people in detention, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, (early online) 

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