Personal stories of alcohol addiction could help shape future healthcare

A new study looks at over three decades worth of research about the recovery stories of people who previously consumed harmful levels of alcohol, with the aim of using the content to help to shape future research and healthcare provision into supporting people with alcohol addiction.

The new study, published in PLOS ONE, was led by Dr Mohsen Subhani, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham.

Alcohol misuse is a major public health concern. Harmful alcohol intake contributes to over two hundred medical conditions, costing the UK National Health Service (NHS) £3.5 billion per year. This emphasizes the importance of health services finding ways to support successful recovery from alcohol misuse, to minimise associated harms.

Recovery narratives are defined as personal stories of health problems and of recovery. They are often shared on platforms such as YouTube or in published autobiographies. The analysis of recovery narratives can provide insights into how recovery happens, which might help health services to develop better approaches for supporting recovery.

As part of this new study, the team of experts reviewed all published literature on alcohol recovery narratives, spanning more than three decades of research.

They found that published papers described a broad range of characteristics, including various settings in which recovery took place, and the influence of spirituality and religion on recovery.

Thirty-two studies were reviewed, which included over a thousand participants aged between 18 and 72 years of age; 52% were male and 46% were female.

Shame about alcohol misuse was a prominent theme for female narrators, lack of sense of belonging and spirituality were recurrent themes for LGBTQ+ narrators, and alienation and inequality were frequently encountered in the narratives from minority indigenous groups.

In this context, our review highlights key characteristics of alcohol recovery narratives, with implications for both research and healthcare practice. Recovery from alcohol addiction is possible both within and outside treatment settings and it is important to recognise you have problem with drinking and ask for help”.

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