Innovation and Research Unit

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WDP is an evidence-based organisation, and both draws from and contributes to research and best practice.  Continually assessing ‘what works’ for our service users, we collaborate with a range of academic institutions to independently evaluate our programmes, as well as jointly developing and coproducing new projects that bring us to the cutting edge of the sector.  
Led by Business Analyst, Devon De Silva, WDP’s Innovation Research Unit places service users at the heart of our research, operating within a strict code of ethics and with rigorous quality control  Several of the working group members are also affiliated with the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care (NIHR CLAHRC).

If you are a university and are interested in collaborating or conducting research with us, please contact Devon De Silva on or 0777 972 0841. Alternatively, please email




  Current & Upcoming Projects


Street drinking project

Together with London South Bank University, WDP are conducting a joint outreach and research project to street drinkers in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. An exciting project commissioned by LBBD Council that unites the frontline with academia, our work has focussed on developing the evidence base around the causes of street drinking in the area - exploring the local street-drinking landscape, local provision and methods of intervention in order to reduce the impact of street drinking both on individuals and the wider local community.  The research has a heavy qualitative component, with current and ex street drinkers, staff and local business owners all being interviewed. The quantitative data will come from outreach workers and the online residents’ surveys. The project concludes at the end of August 2018.




Capital Card®

One of our most exciting projects is the Capital Card, which is founded on NICE guidelines around contingency management in substance misuse. Putting into action the positive reinforcement of desired behavioural change, the Capital Card is a reward card scheme for service users, incentivising client engagement through a simple earn-spend points system. Launched in the London Borough of Hackney and currently rolled out in Barnet, Harrow, Havering and City of London, the Capital Card is already gaining traction and is Public Health-approved. The Capital Card is also rolling out in Barking and Dagenam, Brent and Redbridge by the end of 2018. More information can be found at 



Assessment & care plan review

Co-production is a key principle of our practice and, in conjunction with staff and service users, we have redesigned our assessment and care plans. Having also consulted with Local Authorities and Public Health England, this paperwork is now being used across our services.






The mapping of Dual Diagnosis care pathways and the identification of existing facilitators and barriers

This in-house project involved mapping the care pathways for service users with co-occurring substance misuse and mental health needs across both Barnet service sites. The project sought to identify what barriers and facilitators currently exist at each stage of the pathway in order to establish service and sector improvements. Both mapping exercises have now been completed and the research team are currently in the process of analysing the data and developing a research report which will be disseminated across WDP, to local stakeholders and commissioners.  




P_0.jpgGABA-B receptor function in alcohol dependence: a double-blind crossover study of the effects of baclofen and placebo on brain function, as measured by neuroimaging services 

In recent years, several lines of evidence have suggested a significant role of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid Type B (GABA-B) in addiction and treatment; specifically, its involvement in dopamine release. Baclofen, a selective GABA-B agonist, is able to inhibit or increase dopamine release and is becoming widely used to help abstinence in drug and alcohol dependents. This study looks to see the links between GABA-B receptors and addiction, and is being led by Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes and colleagues from Imperial College London. 
 Hormones in Addiction (GHADD)

Study looking at whether gut hormones play a role in addictive behaviours in obesity, nicotine and alcohol dependence. 

This study from Imperial College London, led by Professor Anne Lingford Hughes looks at the following hypotheses:

- Antagonising appetitive gut hormone acyl ghrelin attenuates core behavioural components of addiction.
- Administration of GLP-1-R attenuates core behavioural components in recently abstinent subjects with nicotine or alcohol dependence.

The above two attenuates the hedonic-reward responses to high calorie food and appetite in overweight/obese subjects and or recently abstinent nicotine or alcohol dependent subjects.

This study is recruiting 30 abstinent individuals from Hackney and Barnet, between the ages of 18-60, who will be assessed and screened at Hammersmith Hospital.



H_0.jpgWhat contributes to fatigue with health professionals working in drug and alcohol services?

Caring for others can hurt. When a care giver focuses on another without practising proper self-care, the care-giver can begin to develop destructive tendencies. The symptoms can include apathy, decrease in pleasure, lack of satisfaction with job, social isolation and substance misuse; overarching ‘Vicarious Traumatisation’ and ‘Burnout’.

Compassion Fatigue is defined as ‘a preoccupation and inability or unwillingness to compassionately engage in others’ suffering'     (Figley 1995, 2002).

This study, being carried out by a trainee clinical psychology student from Lancaster University, is looking at the factors and variables that lead to or can predict compassion fatigue in drug and alcohol workers. 



Exploring the emotional experiences of men over 40 in therapy for problematic substance use: an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study. 

This study from Regents University, London aims to examine the emotional experiences of men over the age of 40 who have used or are using psychological therapies for their substance use. The study is interested in understanding how men experience emotions in therapy and what they mean for the individual. It wishes to inform practitioners working in the field of substance use, of the relevance of men’s experiences of emotions during therapy. 




058 (1).jpgA mixed methods study into Anabolic Androgenic Steroid use: the voice of the AAS user

Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) are often commonly attributed to sports performance enhancement, but are increasingly being used in the general population, due to their promotion of muscle growth, ability to increase protein synthesis and their relative ease of obtaining over the internet. While it is known that AAS use can be detrimental to health and wellbeing, the motivations for using them are wide ranging and less well known.

In this research project, Bournemouth University is seeking to understand the experiences of AAS users. The study will look at how AAS use contributes to mental health and behavioural issues, the barriers AAS users encounter when accessing treatment, the identification of pathways of information sharing the risks associated with using AAS and the practice implications for those working in services offering support to people who use AAS.

The results of this study will help increase the knowledge on why people use AAS and how best to support AAS users who want to, and who are accessing treatment. can local maternity services better support vulnerable service users? 

 This collaboration between Revolving Doors Agency and Birth Companions recruits, trains and supports mothers who have experience of substance misuse, domestic abuse or criminal justice system to investigate vulnerable women’s experiences of maternal health services in North East London via one-to-one interviews.

The report will be shared with commissioners who have commissioned the project in order to improve service users' experiences of maternity services.





Unlinked anonymous monitoring survey of PWID

 A public health surveillance study to measure the prevalence of HIV and other infections among People Who Inject Drugs (PWID). Aims include:

- Estimate levels of HIV Hep B and Hep C among PWID attending drug service

- Monitor key behaviours (including equipment sharing, uptake of diagnostic equipment)

- Provide information relating to public health and making future projections about HIV, and Hep B and C epidemics in this population

Our Hackney service will ask all service users who are current or former injectors if they will provide a dried blood sample and complete a questionnaire, which will be sent off to PHE. The test is anonymous. WDP will receive summaries of data and poster summarising national and regional results.



Identity transition in recovery from problem drinking 

Cassandra Hogan, a doctoral student from London South Bank University, is looking at the changing identities of service users in their recovery journey.

The study will use mixed-methods approach using questionnaires, service data and semi structured interviews and will look to recruit around 125 alcohol treatment service users from Passmores House and Havering as they enter abstinent and recovery-structured programmes.






A pilot study - utilising therapy dogs in community substance misuse services  

WDP are working in collaboration with The Mayhew to adapt their existing Therapaws Programme to support our service users of whose PHQ-9/GAD-7 scores suggest they are experiencing depression and/or anxiety.

The study will be conducted within our Brent service and will take the form of a controlled trial in which the experimental group will partake in weekly animal assisted therapy group sessions for 12 weeks.

The research project will be primarily quantitative with a small qualitative element and will aim to determine how effective this intervention is at enhancing retention rates and mental health whilst reducing substance misuse.  








Morton, L. (2016) A Case Report of a Concurrent Treatment of Cannabis and Tobacco Use within a Community Substance Misuse Service. Journal of Addiction, Research & Therapy, 7: 279.

Morton, L. & Nanda, M. Capital Card™ Reward Scheme. Earn, Spend, Live: The Future of Client Engagement. Poster presented at: Social Prescribing: from Rhetoric to Reality, Kings Fund Conference; 2017 May 18; London, UK.