My research will support treatment for substance misuse and protect people from relapse

Marie O’Hanrahan is currently undertaking an ESF-funded KESS2 Psychology PhD in collaboration with Pobl,  a third sector housing group that supports people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction as part of their care and support services.


"My PhD seeks to establish factors which predict substance use relapse among adults involved in recovery support services.

"Relapse prevention plays a key role in treating and maintaining a stable recovery for people with substance use addiction. Addiction has been described as a chronic relapsing condition so conducting in-depth research into relapse risk factors is an important step in preventing a return to substance use.


"Identifying the factors which predict relapse will also enable substance use recovery services, like Pobl, to provide effective treatment and support.  


"One of the highlights of my research has been interviewing people who have experienced substance use relapse. Hearing these first-person stories has given me a deeper understanding of relapse, and how it can be influenced by a variety of factors such as environmental cues and social support.


What's it like to do a PhD?


"PhD work tends to stick in your mind long after you’ve shut the laptop off and left the office. I’ve found getting involved in non-academic hobbies gives me something else to focus on and provides balance. Sports are my go-to!


Marie Kess PhD student Psychology

Presenting my research at our annual PGR conference


"Of course, kicking a ball around a pitch doesn’t help when you’re struggling with a particular area of research so that’s when your supervisory team and support networks come in.


"I’m fortunate to share an office with other psychology PhD students. We are all at different stages so you’re guaranteed to find someone who has encountered a similar issue who can provide advice on what did or didn’t work for them.

Great PhD supervisors


"My director of studies, Professor Gareth Roderique-Davies, and supervisors, Professor Bev John and Professor David Shearer, are incredibly helpful and supportive in every area. They bring a vast amount of expertise as well as a full cafetiere!


"Before my PhD, I studied a Psychology Masters at USW and was taught by some of my current supervisors. When applying for this PhD I knew I would be joining a professional and highly skilled team of researchers.


"Being part of the USW Addictions Research Group is great. The group is currently focusing on a wide variety of research topics such as drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction and extreme sports addiction.


"I have just entered into the final year of my PhD. I will finish data collection in the next few months and will then focus primarily on writing, writing and more writing!


"As for what comes next, I would like to continue working in the field of health psychology so one option is to complete stage 2 training to become a Chartered Psychologist and register as a Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) but my main focus is completing and achieving my PhD."



Key findings

  • Research has found the duration of substance use, psychological distress and marital status to be significant relapse predictors

  • Accurately identifying predictors of relapse is key to the success of substance use treatment and support services

  • Craving may not directly impact substance use but influence other factors of relapse indirectly.  Research has found stress-induced craving as a predictor of relapse among cocaine addicts while other research noted cue-exposure was predictive of nicotine craving.



Related research from Addictions Research Group



About KESS


Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a major pan-Wales operation supported by European Social Funds (ESF) through the Welsh Government.

KESS 2 links companies and organisations with academic expertise in the Higher Education sector in Wales to undertake collaborative research projects, working towards a PhD or Research Masters qualification. You can view current KESS funded PhDs here.


FSE KESS KESS East