Social network characteristics and substance abuse treatment outcome

                         Richardson, Laura; PhD

                         NEW SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH, 2000
                         PSYCHOLOGY, CLINICAL (0622); PSYCHOLOGY, SOCIAL (0451)

                         The present study attempted to describe the social network characteristics of substance abusers pre-
                         and post-treatment and to identify changes in network composition related to outcome. The first problem
                         considered whether networks change after treatment and if so, whether these changes last. Greater
                         affiliation with AA/NA in aftercare was hypothesized to coincide with networks more supportive of
                         sobriety. Social networks that were more supportive of abstinence were expected to predict better
                         substance use outcomes. Social investment, or the degree to which network members were liked and
                         valued, was hypothesized to moderate this relationship. Exploratory analyses were also conducted to
                         examine the network characteristics associated with different types of substance use. Clients entering
                         residential or intensive day treatment programs (<italic> N</italic> = 119) were assessed at baseline and
                         followed 6 months and 1 year posttreatment. Results of the present study indicated long-standing
                         changes in posttreatment networks: networks contained fewer heavy drug/alcohol users, and more
                         members who were abstinent or in recovery than did networks before treatment. Overall, networks
                         became smaller, included fewer friends from work and more friends from AA/NA groups. Affiliation with
                         AA was associated with less drinking and drug use among daily contacts, less heavy use by any network
                         member, and more abstinence for the entire network. The networks of alcoholics, drug users, and
                         polysubstance users did not differ in any respect other than posttreatment network size. The presence
                         of a spouse alone did not predict substance use outcomes, although partner's use of drugs/alcohol did.
                         The presence of family members irrespective of AA/NA affiliation, was associated with abstinence during
                         the later half of the one-year period after detox. For clients who did slip, frequency of use was
                         determined by the negative influence of heavy users, rather than the more protective influence of strictly
                         abstinent network members. These findings suggest that clients in recovery do make major changes in
                         their social networks, and some of these changes (most notably severing ties with heavy users and
                         maintaining ties with family members) predict better outcomes.


Social Systems Simulation Group
P.O. Box 6904
San Diego, CA  92166-0904
Roland Werner, Principal
Phone/FAX  (619) 660-1603

Copyright © 1996-2004 Social Systems Simulation Group.
All rights reserved.