An investigation into the process of recovery when substance misusers are attempting desistance

  • Rhian Hills

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The term recovery has been recently re-launched within UK drug policy, with focus on individuals' engaging in treatment and achieving change. What constitutes recovery and the process of recovery is misunderstood, due to the term previously being attributed to an individual reaching total abstinence.

    Within the UK previous research has largely focused on the benefits of pharmacological interventions, rather than on recovery as a concept. To date there have only been two major studies regarding recovery as a process (Mclntosh and McKeganey 2000a; Best et al 2008). However, what these studies did not do was assess the process of recovery in real time.

    The aim of the thesis was to provide a comprehensive investigation of recovery, to add knowledge to this area regarding the overall process of the concept. The research includes a prospective study (n=45) to assess the lived experience of recovery from those entering treatment, combined with a retrospective study of oral histories (n=12) to evaluate respondents' drug using career using semi-structured interviews.

    The main finding of the research was in relation to the importance significant life events have on the individual's decision to stop or resume drug use. The results confirm that recovery should not be viewed as an end state, but as a process of change over time, one which may be influenced by factors extraneous to drug use such as relationships, health and employment. These events are a combination of positive and negative experiences which can initiate or impede change. The results suggest that early identification of these factors could enhance change by removing existing potential barriers.

    Within the study, the terms recovery and desistance were used, with recovery pertaining to change over time and desistance referring to periods of non-drug use. Reviewing the literature coupled with findings from the study suggest that utilising these terms would provide a more clear cut definition of change and allow policy makers, researchers, academics and service users alike to have a sound understanding of what recovery is, whilst acknowledging the process of change over time.
    Date of AwardOct 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTrevor Bennett (Supervisor) & Katy Holloway (Supervisor)


    • Drug abuse
    • Treatment
    • Prevention

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