Recovery housing in Scotland: international literature review

Review of the international evidence on recovery housing relevant to a Scottish context. This report forms part of a wider research project to better understand the provision of recovery housing in Scotland.

Key Findings

  • Recovery housing is an umbrella term for substance-free, safe living environments for people in recovery from problem substance use. Different levels and models of recovery house exist, which differ in their extent of structure, support, and staffing. However, there are large discrepancies in meaning between recovery housing terms and this highlights the importance of defining recovery houses by the services and level of support they offer.
  • Key to recovery housing is the focus on the social model of recovery principles of peer support, experiential knowledge, non-hierarchical relationships, and high involvement in a recovery community.
  • People often go to recovery housing following a stay in residential rehabilitation, although for some houses this is not always a requirement. Recovery housing therefore offers support and structure to people as they transition back to living more independently, and no longer require the high level of support and structure from a residential rehabilitation service.
  • International evidence, predominantly from the United States, observed positive, longitudinal resident outcomes across various social areas including higher rates of abstinence and lowered reports of substance use; positive employment outcomes; reduced involvement in the criminal justice system; improvements to personal social support and skills; improved psychological measures; and community benefits. Longer stays in recovery housing is associated with improved positive resident outcomes.
  • Research has also indicated that resident outcomes may also depend on other characteristics, including age, resources, and co-occurring conditions.
  • Further research on recovery housing is required. There is a lack of UK and Scotland-based research on recovery housing in general. Further research on longitudinal residents’ outcomes; acceptability; level of knowledge; and lived experience would be useful to inform service design and understand current barriers and facilitators.



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