…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.
A recent study reported that men and women benefit from AA in different ways:
For both men and women, participation in AA increased confidence in the ability to cope with high-risk drinking situations and increased the number of social contacts who supported recovery efforts. But the effect of both of those changes on the ability to abstain from drinking was about twice as strong for men as for women. In contrast, women benefitted much more than men from improved confidence in their ability to abstain during times when they were sad or depressed. “It is striking that this effect was virtually absent in men while it was a major contributor to women’s ability to remain abstinent and to limit the number of drinks they consumed when they did drink,” says Hoeppner. Several factors that helped to reduce the intensity of drinking in men – such as less depression and fewer friends who encouraged drinking – did not appear to be as important for helping women.
Kelly says,”AA helps both men and women stay sober following treatment by enhancing sober social networks and boosting confidence in coping with high-risk social situations. In terms ofalcoholism recovery more generally, we found the ability to handle negative moods and emotions was important for women but not for men. Conversely, coping with high-risk social situations – which could be attending sports or other events where people are likely to drink – was important for men but not women. These differences suggests that, for women, finding alternative ways to cope with negative emotions may yield recovery benefits, while among men, a greater focus on coping with social occasions that feature drinking may enhance recovery.