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Veterans need specific services to overcome addiction
Evaluation of the Addaction Right Turn service which builds on armed services comradeship for mutual support for recovery from addiction & desistance from crime.

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Right Turn

Ex-military personnel who are recovering from alcohol and drug addiction are more likely to succeed in recovery through veteran specific services, new research has revealed.

The research, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice on behalf of the charity Addaction, and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) looked at the work of the Right Turn project, which has been developed to support veterans who are recovering from addiction and help them reintegrate into civilian life.


Each year roughly 15,000 people leave the UK Armed Forces and the vast majority make a successful transition into civilian society. But increasing number of ex-forces personnel are experiencing poor mental health, substance misuse and contact with the criminal justice sector. Poor transition is estimated to cost the UK £98 million in 2015 alone.

Addaction’s Right Turn initiative, the first of its kind in the UK when launched, is a pioneering project operating on the premise that the comradeship underpinning military life can be redirected to support recovery from addiction and desistance from crime. Following the pilot stage, funding from FiMT and Heineken helped support the expansion of the Right Turn to 20 sites across the UK.

The veteran-specific services including a network of peer support groups led by volunteers (Vet Recovery Champions), provide a safe space where veterans can meet, share their experiences and support each other to achieve recovery.


The research carried out by Sheffield Hallam University looked at the impact of Right Turn and its effectiveness in supporting and assisting veterans to integrate more successfully back into civilian life.

The results established a number of positive outcomes for the veterans, with the primary finding showing that ex-military service personnel are most likely to engage positively to treatment and support services offered by others with experience of military life.

Further findings included:

  • Of those with a history of contact with the criminal justice system, all reported no further criminal justice contact since joining the project
  • Of the 39% of veterans in active addiction when joining the project, all gained addiction recovery status
  • 65% of the veterans have undertaken further education and training opportunities and are now engaged in voluntary work or paid employment
  • 78% of the veterans reported significant improvements in their relationships with family members since joining the project
  • 65% of veterans reported an increased sense of security and confidence in their management of practical, day-to-day matters, e.g. accommodation and finances
  • 86% reported an improved sense of purpose and direction in life, alongside feeling more confident about achieving their life goals


Dr Katherine Albertson, who led the research for Sheffield Hallam’s HKC, said:

Without exception, all of the veteran participants reported enjoying their time in the military. They talked of a sense of  achievement, unique experiences, learning to embrace different structures and expectations of the military identity.

The Right Turn project operates on the assertion that the comradeship and mutual resilience underpinning military life can be redirected to support recovery and desistance journeys through peer support which enables engagement in community and social activities.


[I am in the process of developing a new resource page for services for veteran offenders to go with the other resource pages already available for free here. Please get in touch with details of services for veteran offenders]


Blog posts in the drug and alcohol category are kindly sponsored by Breaking Free Group which has developed a powerful and adaptable digital health platform which targets the underlying psychological and lifestyle factors that drive addictive behaviours. Breaking Free has no editorial influence on the contents of this site.

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