Students recovering from addiction are to take part in a pilot programme at the University of Birmingham.
The pilot programme will work with young adult students in recovery from addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling or other behavioural addictions while surrounded by typical university social activities.
Based on a model which has been highly successful in the USA, the programme offers five key types of support:
Recovery support – On-campus support group meetings with peers that can help “provide insulation from pressure to take part in drinking, substance use or other problematic behaviours”
Educational support – Advice and assistance on university application, admission and on-going learning
Peer support – Seminars aimed at relapse prevention, building a social support network, and health and wellbeing
Family support – Education and support to help recovering students live outside of their family supervision
Community support – Alcohol and substance-free social activities and local volunteering projects
There is an overwhelming lack of peer support for abstinence in student environments – Dr Ed Day, University of Birmingham
“Despite huge progress in the provision of mental health support for students, addiction remains an unrecognised and stigmatised problem,” said Dr Ed Day (pictured, on left), an expert in addiction psychiatry at the University of Birmingham and the UK government’s drug recovery champion, who is leading the programme.
“There is an overwhelming lack of peer support for abstinence in student environments,” says Dr Day. “Traditional 12-step recovery programmes work well for adults in middle-age, but young adults have a difficult time finding a social niche that is both free of temptation but also supportive and understanding.”
“The goal of this programme is to develop a fellowship of abstinent friends – a recovery community which will flourish and grow on the campus over time, providing a model that can be emulated at other universities. We want to support students in recovery to get the most out of their university education and also to remove some of the barriers that prevent these students from accessing university education in the first place. Support will also be offered to their families, providing reassurance that their loved one’s recovery will continue even whilst they are way from home at university.
As a student in recovery myself, I know that life on campus can be testing and isolating for people in recovery and this initiative will go a long way towards remedying this – Luke Trainor, University of Birmingham
“Students in abstinent recovery are a massive asset to the university. Research from the USA shows that compared to the ‘average’ student they are more likely to complete their course, gain better scores and volunteer or give back to the student community in other ways.”
The programme will start with the new academic year in September 2021 and will be led by programme manager Luke Trainor (pictured, on right), in the university’s Institute for Mental Health. Luke says: “Recognising that there are students out there who are recovering from addiction and striving for a happy, full and productive life needs to be a priority for the higher education sector in the UK.
“As a student in recovery myself, I know that life on campus can be testing and isolating for people in recovery and this initiative will go a long way towards remedying this. It is a testament to the University of Birmingham’s commitment to inclusivity and comprehensive welfare that they are behind this project, the hope is that universities throughout the UK will recognise the need and join us.”
The University of Birmingham pilot will provide a template approach to supporting student recovery nationwide.