Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Group

Andy IrvingSharing knowledge

Andy Irving discusses a new project in Sheffield aimed at promoting research, good practice and joined-up working

A group of researchers from Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, alongside representatives from the main treatment providers in the city, formed the Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Group (SARRG) in September 2014. Professor of criminology and well known addiction recovery researcher David Best wanted to create a group to support an existing vibrant recovery community in Sheffield. SARRG builds on two existing strands of research expertise within Sheffield Hallam University: pathways to addiction recovery and desistance from offending. The two themes combine innovative work around routes taken towards desistance and recovery, and the differing modalities that support these endeavours.

The group met for the first time in after a Sheffield City Council’s drug and alcohol coordination team (DACT) recovery month event. Representatives from both universities were met by staff from Sheffield Alcohol Support Service (SASS) and the DACT and from the outset it was clear the groups’ aims aligned with those of SURRG, (service user recovery reference group). Chaired by the DACT, this group is the primary communication forum between service providers (commissioned and non-commissioned) and Sheffield DACT in the implementation of the Sheffield service user involvement strategy.

SARRG is ideally placed to help bridge the gap between treatment providers and the research community interested in evidencing and enhancing treatment/recovery efficacy and effectiveness. Drawing on the academic strengths of SARRG members we can capitalise on the rich repository of skills and experience creating research grounded in peoples’ real ‘lived experience’ of addiction and recovery. The group has formed a coalition of people in recovery, services, commissioners, academics and the wider community, representing differing pathways to recovery, actively supporting the recovery community, promoting events and providing help and expert advice to groups asking for support. SARRG’s vision is make Sheffield the UK’s foremost recovery city, providing a model of advanced recovery research and action for others to follow.

The group was officially launched on 26 March as part of Social Justice Week, at an event organised by Hallam University’s Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice.  The event included the official launch of the veteran-tailored programme, Right Turn, which is run by Addaction and works with veterans who need drugs and/or alcohol treatment in the north of England and Scotland. Professor David Best will lead an independent evaluation, aiming to capture the scope and scale of the problem and to providing the evidence base needed to further support service and ex-service personnel to lead fulfilling civilian lives, in recovery. The project aims to influence policy makers and improve the way services are delivered to veterans right across the country.

Professor Best continued with a presentation of the findings from the US and Australian Life in Recovery Surveys, as well as the launch of the first nationwide survey designed to document the lives of people in recovery from addiction in the UK. It is hoped the information gathered will inform the public, policymakers, service planners and providers and the recovery community about the milestones that people achieve in recovery. The information will contribute to educating the public about recovery and addressing discriminatory barriers facing people in, or seeking, recovery. At present the survey has had over 670, responses and counting.

There was also the launch of the Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Panel (ShARRP), the region’s first addiction patient and public involvement (PPI) group. With the assistance of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Clinical Research Office, Andy Irving, a researcher from the University of Sheffield’s school of health and related research (ScHARR) has formed a group of people in recovery and those directly affected. The group’s remit is to provide much-needed patient and public input into the various stages of research initiation, design, methodologies and dissemination. The group meets quarterly and undertakes various tasks including considering whether a research idea is worthwhile, reviewing funding and ethics applications and advising on how best to recruit participants and share research results with a lay audience.

The launch event culminated in lively debate about what recovery means to people. Clearly recovery is a private personal journey, yet there was a sense that recovery is also, by necessity, a social phenomenon. At the heart of the debate people appeared to agree that, as a recovery movement, SARRG and all services, groups and networks associated with Sheffield can create the conditions that allow those with addiction problems to overcome the barriers of stigma and marginalisation to achieve a sense of connection in the community. There was a real buzz created on the day and a genuine push to get involved in research and action to help build recovery capitol in the new recovery capital!

SARRG is now working on several research initiatives including the evaluation of the Right Turn project, the UK Life in Recovery Survey, a city-wide recovery asset mapping exercise and another social justice conference for 2016, as well as planning and promoting lively and inspiring events as part of this September’s recovery month.

We would like to thank all our contributors within Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield – School of Health and Related Research, Sheffield City Council – DACT, Sheffield Alcohol Support Service as well as: Addaction, Crime Reductions Initiatives (CRI), Phoenix Futures, Primary Care Addiction Service Sheffield (Guernsey House), representatives from Alcoholics and Narcotics Annonymous, Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust (Fitzwilliam Centre), Turning Point Adult Treatment Services, The Amy Winehouse Foundation, Derbyshire Healthcare foundation trust and Dry-Road – Sheffield, as well as the Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Panel (ShARRP)

It’s still early days for the SARRG, but we believe we can mobilise people and resources in the city to drive research for an enhanced understanding of addiction and recovery, and ultimately improve the lives of all those affected.

For more information about the SARRG please visit

To access the UK Life In Recovery Survey please go to

For more information about the Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Panel (ShARRP please visit