Dot Smith

Dot Smith has worked in health and social care for 35 years. Her experience in the addiction field spans 20 years and for the past 5 years as CEO of Recovery Connections, a lived experience recovery organisation based in the North East of England.

In 2017 she was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to research Collegiate Recovery Programmes in North American Universities. Following the fellowship she successfully launched a collegiate recovery programme at Teesside University and developed a study abroad programme with Texas Tech University.

University and recovery – Can one benefit the other?

A university or college campus can be described as an abstinence hostile environment. For students in recovery from alcohol or drug use, they arrive into a culture that is often fuelled by the very things they are abstaining. Sobriety can create a disconnect from peers and reduces opportunities to socialise and have fun away from studies. University life can be stressful and coupled with student lifestyles, increases the risk for students in recovery returning to use. Stigma associated with addiction is a barrier to declaring recovery status further increasing isolation.

A collegiate recovery programme on campus offers students a ready-made community, peer support and sober accommodation. For the University, the benefits of students focussed on studies as opposed to partying are obvious. My onsite learning at six Collegiate Recovery Programmes and the Association of Recovery in Higher Education in North America demonstrated the benefits to the students, their families and the universities. The early-stage findings at Teesside University are positive and although low in numbers, we have achieved recognition of the benefits and greater understanding of the needs of students in recovery by the University.