Institute for Mental Health Lunchtime Webinar  with Dr Ed Day

On 4 April 2022, Dr Ed Day and Luke Trainor delivered the Institute for Mental Health Lunchtime Webinar on –

BETTER THAN WELL – The UK’s first University-led Collegiate Recovery Program for Addiction

Addiction to alcohol, drugs and other problem behaviours (such as gambling, gaming, sex or food) affects as many as 1 in 10 people in the UK. Use of substances or behaviours is often an adaptive response to stressors such as adverse childhood experience, environmental disadvantage or trauma. However, what was initially helpful can take on a destructive life of its own, leading to significant biological, psychological and social problems. Recovery is about more than just control over the problem behaviour – it includes good mental and physical health, purposeful daily activity, and involvement in the rights, roles and responsibilities of society. There is no one ‘correct’ pathways to recovery, and it is often a process requiring sustained effort and support.

Education is one of the key elements of recovery from addiction. Completion of a university degree is a passport to many areas of working life in the UK, and meeting new people, exposure to new ideas, and developing new ways of thinking are all part of the experience of higher education. However, university campuses are a challenging environment for people trying to maintain abstinence, and students often need to negotiate multiple important changes in their life simultaneously.

Peer support for abstinence is one of the simplest yet most powerful tools for sustaining abstinent recovery. When combined with some structural support from the university to overcome any addiction-related deficits, a student can achieve both goals of continuing their education and maintaining recovery. The Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) is a concept developed in the USA over than past 40 years. Such programs combine elements of peer support, educational support, recovery skills, sober social activities and community service to support university students to build recovery capital whilst maximising their learning experience. Better Than Well (BTW) is the first University-led CRP in the UK that started at the University of Birmingham in September 2021.

This presentation will review the background and supporting evidence base for CRPs, before describing the process of development of BTW through the eyes of some of its participants. We will then lay out a potential research agenda for evaluating its impact in Birmingham and beyond.

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