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The British University Tackling Drugs Abuse Head On

In July 2021, Ed Day and Luke Trainor launched the Collegiate Recovery Programme, Better Than Well at the University of Birmingham. The peer-led support programme has been launched for abstinent students recovering from addiction.


Ed Day, the government’s Drug Recovery Champion and a specialist in addiction psychiatry at the University of Birmingham, argues that recovering drug addicts receive little support in student environments. “There lacks peer support for abstinence in student environments,” says Dr Day. “Young adults have a difficult time finding a social niche that is both free of [drugs and alcohol] but also supportive and understanding”. 


A recovered drug addict, Luke Trainor was motivated to set up a community for students recovering from addiction after his experience achieving a first-class degree and completing a masters at Birmingham University. Trainor had only just completed treatment for entrenched drug and alcohol addiction when he began his undergraduate degree at Birmingham. For Trainor, university was an isolating and stigmatising place. There lacked a supportive community Trainor could open up and relate to. “I wasn’t keen to share the fact I was in recovery to anyone without lived experience at the university”, Trainor claims. Day agrees, stating that “despite huge progress in the provision of mental health support for students, addiction remains an unrecognised and stigmatised problem”.


Better Than Well (BTW) aims to develop a recovery community for the drug abstinent at university to meet and support one another. BTW is inspired by the American strategy that has successfully enabled recovering students to succeed higher education, an institution they previously struggled to access. The programme takes a holistic approach, offering different types of support. This includes recovery support in the form of on-campus meetings, educational support, such as advice and assistance on accessing and continuing higher education, peer support, family support, and community support. One BTW participant, Chris P, claimed that BTW has enabled him to “excel in [his] education” and be “hopeful for [his] future for the first time in a long time.” 


Better Than Well is part of a nationwide campaign to tackle the problem of substance abuse in the UK. The problem exists in British Universities. However, as Ed Day claims, universities are loath to admit their part in the issue for fear of tarnishing their reputation. “Vice chancellors don’t want to label their universities as having a problem”. This year marks the beginning of change. Students joining the University of Birmingham were asked to indicate whether they had an addiction and would like accommodation which gave them support by placing them with others in similar positions. Over 80 students expressed interest in the specialised accommodation. 


Ed Day and Trainor hope that this programme will support that 4% of students tackling substance abuse at higher education institutions in the UK, serving as a blueprint for other universities across Britain. “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.”

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Tags: #UK #student #drugs #addiction #university #recoveryprogram #edday #substanceabuse #birminghamuniversity #betterthanwell #luketrainor


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