SURE case study

Mobile app SURE Recovery is empowering people who are using substances or alcohol to control their own recovery path, focusing on the aspects that are most important to them.

The free app, which is currently being piloted, has been developed by King’s College London in partnership with Mindwave and co-designed with end users. It allows individuals to track their recovery and achieve personal goals which they can set themselves; the hope is that this approach will support addiction recovery rates amongst people experiencing problems with alcohol and other drugs.


NHS Digital data shows that in 2018/19 over 250,000 people were treated for substance or alcohol addiction in England. Many people affected by addiction are supported by key workers in drug charities and services across the country who work to help them towards recovery.

These organisations typically use paper-based tools to track recovery; each time an individual attends an appointment with their keyworker, the two work together to complete questionnaires on the SURE (Substance Use Recovery Evaluator) and SUSS (Substance Use Sleep Scale) measures. These allow individuals to track their recovery and monitor progress across key areas of wellbeing and quality of life.

Researchers at the National Addiction Centre, King’s College London wanted to explore how empowering people to play a greater role in tracking and managing their recovery would have a positive impact on the speed and quality of that recovery. They felt that service users may respond better, and give more accurate answers to sensitive questions if they could choose when and how often to complete the measures.

The College set up a pilot project, working together with Mindwave; Action on Addiction; and the Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health, King’s College London, to develop an app which service users could use to complete the measures at a time and frequency of their own choosing.


Mindwave worked in partnership with researchers and clinicians from King’s College London, as well as people with lived experience of drug and alcohol problems, to jointly design and develop the native iOS and Android app. SURE Recovery can be used by anyone who is using alcohol or other drugs, in recovery, or thinking about recovery, to track their progress and access vital information and support. 

By speaking to people at different stages of recovery and gathering their ideas and feedback through numerous interviews and workshops, the team identified six key features to include in the app, including the SURE and SUSS measures.

Individuals can now fill in these measures whenever they wish and see their progress charted on a graph. The app can be used to track all areas of recovery, including drinking and drug use, self-care, relationships, material resources, and outlook on life. Individuals can track their scores over time and get personalised text feedback including information and tips each time they use the tracker.

A diary feature enables individuals to record their thoughts and feelings, things they feel grateful for or happy about, or a simple note for the day, all in one safe place.

SURE Recovery also provides support in the form of a shared artwork gallery, showcasing artwork from people with lived experience; a free downloadable book about the lives of heroin users; and potentially life-saving information, including an emergency training video, about the drug Naloxone which can be used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Individuals can test and track how much they know about Naloxone – knowledge which could save a life.


SURE Recovery was launched in September 2019. Mindwave have recently designed and integrated a new section of the app providing specific support around Covid-19, which will enable King’s College London to collect data on the effects of the pandemic on the wellbeing of people with addiction. Overtime, insights from the app could help drug charities and services to tailor the support they provide to their service users.


“We have really enjoyed working with Mindwave. They are a creative and engaging group of people who share our passion for user-focused design. When we encountered problems, they were there, giving us confidence and support, solving problems, and ensuring that we managed to create an app that we love.”
Professor Joanna Neale,
Professor in Addictions Qualitative Research, National Addiction Centre