Recovery-focussed treatment: The challenges for research and outcome measurement

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Within the addictions field in recent years there has been a growing interest in “recovery” and recognition that this is a complex process that encompasses broader issues of re-integration alongside dealing with drug use. In contrast, over the past year there has been considerable public criticism of the treatment system, largely focused on the narrow issue of the proportion of those in treatment who have left treatment “drug free”.  This debate has highlighted an apparent lack of clarity and agreement about what different treatment services are trying to achieve and what we mean by the term “recovery”.

Inspired by the work around recovery in the US (Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel, 2007), the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), decided to bring together a group representing the range of perspectives within the addictions field to seek a vision of recovery to which all drug services could espouse and which could provide a platform for further work to improve our understanding of recovery and how individuals can be helped to achieve it. Following a two day meeting a consensus statement was developed which was refined in consultation with a wide range of audiences.

The consensus reached was that “The process of recovery from problematic substance use is characterised by voluntarily-sustained control over substance use which maximises health and wellbeing and participation in the rights, roles and responsibilities of society.”.  The individual nature of recovery, in terms of what is recovered from, the “end-point” and the role of treatment and other support in the process, was also recognised.  Such a broad definition and the individual nature of the experience pose considerable challenges for the outcome measurement that will be a necessary foundation for research and service development to enhance recovery.  This presentation will briefly describe the consensus process before addressing in more detail the challenges for outcome measurement posed by this vision of recovery.


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Nicola Singleton