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Two buses and a short walk: the place of geography in recovery

Martin Whiteford (University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Will Haydock (Dorset County Council, Dorchester, UK)
Nicky Cleave (Dorset County Council, Dorchester, UK)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




As UK substance misuse policy has increasingly focused on the concept of recovery, policymakers, service providers and service users have found “recovery capital” a useful concept to understand the barriers to and facilitators of recovery from substance misuse. There is a rich strand of research that considers the composition of recovery capital in terms of the relevance of resources such as access to mutual aid, familial support and friendship networks, stable housing, structured psychosocial support and education, training and employment. However, such general accounts have tended not to engage with the potential spatial element of recovery capital; that is, how location contributes to the acquisition and management of recovery capital. The purpose of this paper is to add nuance to more generalised accounts through a critical interrogation, exploration and analysis of the role of geography in recovery.


The paper draws on in-depth interviews with service users and service providers in a predominantly rural county in the south-west of England.


The ability to build and sustain recovery capital is shown to be marked by a complex web of social and spatial inclusions/exclusions.


This paper makes three important contributions to prevailing understandings of recovery capital. First, it shows how narratives of recovery are intimately tied to perceptions and experiences of place. Second, it reveals some of the important challenges and complex dilemmas that local drug and alcohol commissioners face in designing and delivering recovery-orientated treatment systems. Third, and finally, it argues that there is a pressing need for a more nuanced appreciation of the social and spatial dynamics of recovery capital.



Whiteford, M., Haydock, W. and Cleave, N. (2016), "Two buses and a short walk: the place of geography in recovery", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 72-83.



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