Social connection as a mechanism of change

photo credit: davegray

photo credit: davegray

A new blog looks at social connection as an important mechanism for facilitating recovery:

…if having plenty of quality social connections is good for the next person in the street, is it also true for people trying to recover from addictive disorders?

Mark Litt and colleagues from the University of Connecticut conducted a randomised trial on alcoholics in treatment. These patients either had case management, contingency management AND social network, or simply social network connection interventions. The ones connected to sober social networks did better than the other groups. One mind-blowing statistic coming out of this was that ‘the addition of just abstinent person to a social network increased the probability of abstinence for the next year by 27%.’ If this were causal think of the impact this would have on treatment populations. You’d think we’d all be practising this like billy-o now in treatment settings. Sadly we are not.

What’s the best way to improve the social networks of those seeking recovery? Answer: Introduce them to other recovering people.

Read the rest here.

3 Comments

Filed under Mutual Aid, Research, Treatment

3 responses to “Social connection as a mechanism of change

  1. I think this is why I feel so strongly about building broader support for Collegiate Recovery communities across the country. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Web Servant

    “One mind-blowing statistic coming out of this was that ‘the addition of just abstinent person to a social network increased the probability of abstinence for the next year by 27%.’ If this were *causal* think of the impact this would have on treatment populations.”

    I think we can say this was a causal mechanism because the Litt study was an randomised controlled trial meaning the only difference between each group was the intervention they received. Those who received Network Support “yielded up to 20% more days abstinent than the other conditions at 2 years posttreatment.”

    Across all treatment allocations the addition of one ‘clean and sober’ person to a patients network increased the probability of abstinence by 27%. This figure by itself is correlational but when you put it beside the causal link between the NS condition (which is based on 12-step facilitation but concentrates on making new sober friends rather than the belief system) and 20% more days abstinent – you can make a strong case that the 27% figure is in fact causal. This is an effect size that no other intervention has achieved.

    As the authors state:

    “Those in the NS condition had increased “social network support for abstinence, as well as in AA attendance and AA involvement” as well as ” increases in self-efficacy and coping”.

    “These findings suggest that AA may be filling several needs, including encouraging the use of coping skills (and perhaps teaching them as well), and increasing confidence in one’s ability to resist drinking.”

    Thus AA strongly seems to be the link between the NS intervention and the better outcomes which is exactly what NS is designed to do.

  3. “I think we can say this was a causal mechanism because the Litt study was an randomised controlled trial meaning the only difference between each group was the intervention they received”

    I agree. I think we can be fairly confident. I’m always aware that populations in randomised trials are not-representative of the general population. The exclusion criteria in this study means that the sample were not necessarily completely typical of treatment populations.

    The other thing in this sort of trial is that it can’t completely allow for dynamic factors. The idea that once the trial has begun that the only thing influencing the groups is the intervention they have been randomised to is a nice concept, but it’s clearly not the case.

    Having said all that, I’m still pretty convinced. We have other evidence that supports this too.

    Thanks to Jason for the cross-post.