Recovery Plus 12 Feb 2016 The researchers: Joanne Neale1,2, Charlotte Tompkins3, Carly Wheeler4, Emily Finch1,5, John Marsden1, Luke Mitcheson1,6, Diana Rose7, Til Wykes8, John Strang1 1Addictions Department, King’s College London & Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, London 2University of New South Wales, Australia 3Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Leeds 4Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health, Oxford Brookes University 5Blackfriars Road Community Drug and Alcohol Team, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM) 6Lambeth Drug and Alcohol Service, SLAM 7Service User Research Enterprise, Department of Health Services and Population Research, KCL & IoP London 8Department of Psychology, KCL & IoP, London Measuring recovery: moving to agreement ‘‘You’re all going to hate the word ‘recovery’ by the end of this’’: Service users’ views of measuring addiction recovery is a research paper by myself and colleagues (see left) published in Drugs Education Prevention Policy (2015; 22(1): 26-34 ). The quote was given by ‘Sean’ half way through an ex-user focus group. With the other participants, he was debating the importance of good physical health. His throwaway line sits in notable contrast to one of the final remarks made in the same group. On being told that the session was formally over and everyone was free to leave, group members responded: ‘‘We don’t want to go! We don’t want to go!’’. Therein, perhaps, lies a further valuable insight into service users’ views of measuring recovery. It is simultaneously a frustrating but compelling activity and one that can be enjoyable. The research came about because we wanted to explore how service users’ views of measuring addiction recovery differ from those of service providers. Service users have detailed knowledge and understanding of their own health status, psychosocial problems, personal resources, support needs and aspirations. Such information can be crucial to researchers, service providers, service commissioners and policymakers who might not have first-hand experience of addiction and related problems. Involving service users in designing measures of recovery can lessen the likelihood that researchers develop assessment tools that use inappropriate, contradictory or objectionable outcomes, and ambiguous and unclear language. People who have experienced drug or alcohol problems can highlight important weaknesses in dominant recovery discourses. This work forms part of a broader study in which we are seeking to develop a novel recovery outcome measure that will prioritise the goals of people who are, or who have been, addicted to alcohol or drugs and used treatment services. I plan to share those preliminary findings at Recovery Plus in May. In recent years, ‘recovery’ has become a core principle in the drug and alcohol sector, resulting in a significant move towards ‘recovery-oriented’ drug treatment nationally and internationally (Duke, Herring, Thickett, & Thom, 2013). But recovery definitions range from vague and nebulous (‘recovery is what each individual wants it to mean’) to the highly prescriptive (‘recovery means abstinence from all substance use’). Latterly, there has been emergent stakeholder agreement that recovery can be achieved with appropriately prescribed medications (Recovery Orientated Drug Treatment Expert Group, 2012) and is more than just a reduction in substance use (ACMD, 2013; HM Government, 2010; Scottish Government, 2008). Instead, it involves people achieving benefits in a wide range of life areas, including their relationships, housing, health, employment, self-care, use of time, community participation and wellbeing (ACMD, 2013; Burns & MacKeith, 2012; Neale, Pickering, & Nettleton, 2012). Definitional ambiguity renders measuring recovery outcomes particularly complex.
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