A cluster analysis of European Life in Recovery data: what are the typical patterns of recovery experience?

David Best, Arun Sondhi, David Patton, Valeria Abreu, Thomas Martinelli, Lore Bellaert, Wouter Vanderplasschen, Mulka Nisic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: There is little research around recovery pathways and how they cluster together by individual and situational factors according to time in recovery.
Method: This paper uses a cluster analysis with data from the European Life in Recovery (LiR) survey to produce typologies of recovery pathways around stages of recovery: early (<1 year), sustained (1-5 years), and stable (>5 years). A secondary aim was to explore evidence of national variations among clusters.
Results: Cluster analysis identified five typologies of persons in recovery, broadly reflecting the three stages. ‘Early Recovery’ participants had the highest barriers and lowest strengths in recovery and were most likely to reside in Spain, Portugal and Poland. ‘Sustained with residualbarriers’ participants were characterized by high strengths in active addiction but most barriers in recovery and mainly resided in the Netherlands and Belgium. ‘Stable With Lower Recovery Support’ reported higher barriers and lowest strengths in active addiction and were mainly from the Balkan countries. ‘Stable With Higher Recovery Support participants experienced the most barriers in active addiction but also the most strengths in recovery and were largely from the UK. ‘Mixed With Fewer Barriers’ showed the least barriers in recovery and the highest strengths in active addiction and were also mainly from the UK.
Implications: Structural and cultural factors (possibly including location) are essential in recovery journeys and that, while all recovery journeys are unique, are several clusters of characteristics can be identified as broadly consistent with the Betty Ford Institute stages approach of early, sustained and stable recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages9
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Early online date5 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2024


  • Life In Recovery
  • recovery
  • Structural factors
  • international comparisons
  • recovery pathways
  • recovery capital


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