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The Steer report lends itself well to the substance misuse field, especially at this time when the field’s focus is increasingly on how recovery can be initiated and sustained through a greater understanding of an individual’s possession and access to internal and external resources, assets and capabilities.

We know that people start using drugs for a variety of reasons: to fit in with their friends, to forget past memories or experiences, to enhance experiences, to self-medicate against the effects of prolonged substance misuse or to mask feelings of inadequacy. This has definitely been reflected in the stories gathered by the RSA User Centred Drug Service Project.

Whatever the reason, the psychopharmacological effects of the chosen substance ensure that the user escapes their current context or situation, even if momentarily.

Drug and alcohol trying does not always lead to abuse or dependency. Neither is substance abuse or dependency limited to a particular segment of society. Yet the degree to which substance misuse is experienced by people, the impact it has, and the ability to overcome substance misuse problems once they occur varies widely (Cloud and Granfield, 2001).

Steer suggests an individual’s social and physical setting has an enormous effect on a person’s behaviour, as well as the potential for changing that behaviour. In the substance misuse field this is certainly true for those in early recovery where the resources available in their community, the composition of social networks, and the opportunities available for example, all have an influence on that recovery being sustained.

Our user centred research has helped us to build a picture of the ideal environment in which to support sustained recovery. We now need to put these ideas into action and I suspect I will be drawing on Steer in taking this forward so that we’re best able to support citizens as they steer their “behaviour through goal-setting, repeated practice and changing the context within which they make choices” and seek to recovery and a better quality of life.

The User Centred Drug Services Report will tell you how we plan to do this.


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