The Well

Preventing relapse by supporting people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Along with our partner The Well, we received a small research grant from Comic Relief to find a digital support solution for people in abstinence based recovery.

The Challenge

Drug and alcohol addiction affects over a million people in the UK – a demand that charities struggle to meet in a traditional offline capacity.

Along with our partner The Well we worked to find a digital solution that could help support people in recovery, at scale.

The Result

Co-designing and workshopping with our partners at The Well helped to produce, a theory of change model, a successful pilot group – which actually prevented test volunteers from relapsing, and a user tested prototype.

This work has acted as a springboard to further funding.

The Problem

In the UK alone, there are 1.6 million people dependent on alcohol and 380,000 people addicted to heroin or crack cocaine, leading to 12,043 drug and alcohol related deaths in 2014.

This also brings with it a financial cost of £3.5 billion to the NHS and £21 billion to society each year.

The Well have proven that community focused abstinence based recovery can work in an offline setting. The working title of the project “Warrior Down” refers to the offline support network that The Well already have in place. With funding from Comic Relief, we believed that we could provide a digital solution, with the dream that no-one needing help would be missed.

12,043 drug and alcohol related deaths in the UK in 2014

The Solution

Our team travelled to The Well’s Lancaster site, meeting with their service users and spending time getting to know them, listening to their stories and together building a theory of change model.

The stories were heartbreaking, and whilst difficult to hear, helped spur our team, and The Well towards finding the best solution.

We ran a WhatsApp pilot group with 13 service users to observe how they interact with one another, and to what extent the community would rally around someone who was struggling. It took 14 seconds for the first cry for help (“Warrior Down”) to be answered by the community. We also ran multiple workshops, with service users, and The Well’s team.

With this combined knowledge we created a digital prototype that we could test on a pilot group of real users, which fundamentally proved this solution could help prevent people from relapsing. The pilot provided huge insight into the needs of the community, the level of support needed, and how best to provide a peer-to-peer connection that would enable the community not only to self-support but to flourish.

whiteboard showing results from workshops

The potential results that the app could have are encouraging. Our researchers estimate that, even utilising prudence to the greatest extent, and considering only UK residents who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, are in treatment (just over 15% of all those affected) and have a smartphone (76%) – this combination of factors makes these individuals the most easily reachable subset of the recovery population, would account for 234,169 individuals.

If the app was rolled out to these individuals it would:

  • Help 217,777 people through recovery
  • Of which 39,808 would have otherwise relapsed
  • Provide a £4.0bn saving to society as a whole
  • Of which £731m would have otherwise been lost
  • Save 242 lives, which would otherwise have been lost.

And that’s per year. However, it’s all too easy for designers and developers to fall in love with their solutions and products. It’s essential we don’t forget the people this app would help. The following video will show you why The Well do the work that they do, and why we’re so proud to be partnering with them.

Next steps

We presented our findings to Comic Relief and applied for further funding to take the app into development. We’re proud to announce that the funding application was approved and that development began in late April 2017. We’re excited about the future of Warrior Down and the potential it has in supporting people in recovery.

mobile screens showing the warrior down app

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