Boxing Clever: changing the paradigm in substance use treatment

Health and Well-being

Boxing Clever: changing the paradigm in substance use treatment

Project Synopsis

Treatment and rehabilitation from problematic substance use remain societal challenges in Ireland and beyond. This prompted the development of a research alliance with a community agency, in order to complete participatory action research in regard to the approach and outcomes of an inter-agency substance use intervention programme. The research found that education and fitness can be key in building recovery capital in the lives of those seeking intervention for addiction, a finding that further supports a paradigm shift away from traditional abstinence-based treatment interventions.

A range of further elements were found to be important in supporting recovery and the development of personal, social and community capital. These included the role of education in reducing substance use and impacting positively on family relationships, positive re-engagement with communities, the relationship between the coaches and participants, the physical impact of the training on participants, the mechanisms by which gender norms were challenged within the boxing gym environment, and the role and impact of the mentor on the program. The positive attributes associated with the ‘boxer’ identity has the potential to provide an alternative to ‘the addict’ identity within socially disadvantaged communities.

Ballymun Youth Action Project

The research was completed as part of the research alliance between the UCD Community Drugs Programme and Ballymun Youth Action Project. This alliance facilitated access to both hard to reach populations and to the range of practitioners and agencies involved in the intervention programme. An action research method was utilised within the research process to ensure positive programme and practitioner developments as a result of engaging in the study. Ongoing impact and dissemination work has been completed in partnership with Ballymun Youth Action Project and the Ballymun Drug and Alcohol Taskforce.

The outputs are as follows:

  • Increased access to and sustained participation on the Boxing Clever intervention programme.
  • A report launch.
  • A peer reviewed article has been published, with a second under review.
  • Production of a UCD CoSSL funded short film, which has been posted on Youtube and promoted through social media and online.
  • Publication of a research and policy briefing and a practice and policy debate event attended by 150 people (practitioners, policy makers, funders and service users) within the community where the programme is based.
  • The research findings have been presented at a number of conferences, including Lisbon Addictions.
  • Research outputs have been promoted through both social media (Facebook and Twitter) and key online research portals.
  • All dissemination and outputs have been completed in partnership with Ballymun Youth Action Project.

The outcomes are as follows:

  • Immediate changes were made to the structure and delivery of the Boxing Clever programme to increase access, ensure more sustained participation and increase completion rates.
  • The research developed the capacity of practitioners to discuss the programme reflectively and with greater understanding.
  • The research evidence and practitioner development contributed to the programme winning the Aontas STAR Award in 2015.
  • Development of practitioner research capacity and skills within BYAP has resulted in co-authoring publications, presenting at conferences and becoming a co-hosting partner for the International conference, Club Health Dublin 2017.
  • Further research projects have been completed or supported through the alliance.
  • Based on the research findings, mechanisms and approaches to inter-agency working in drug intervention have been transferred to other local community partnerships. This model of effective and successful inter-agency approach to treatment and rehabilitation is currently being replicated in other communities including Tallaght.
  • The research has impacted on the wider substance use intervention sector by evidencing a number of key factors to effective and successful interventions, particularly in relation to the role of recovery capital approach as a treatment intervention and a relapse strategy.
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Human Capacity
  • Societal Engagement
Higher Education Institution:

University College Dublin

Academic Contact:

Dr Sarah Morton
Director of Community Partnership Drug Programmes
School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice

Boxing Clever research findings short film: