Young Adults, Social Networks, and Addiction Recovery: Post Treatment Changes in Social Ties and Their Role as a Mediator of 12-Step Participation
Stout, Robert L.
Greene, M. Claire
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CitationKelly, John F., Robert L. Stout, M. Claire Greene, and Valerie Slaymaker. 2014. “Young Adults, Social Networks, and Addiction Recovery: Post Treatment Changes in Social Ties and Their Role as a Mediator of 12-Step Participation.” PLoS ONE 9 (6): e100121. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100121.
AbstractBackground: Social factors play a key role in addiction recovery. Research with adults indicates individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) benefit from mutual-help organizations (MHOs), such as Alcoholics Anonymous, via their ability to facilitate adaptive network changes. Given the lower prevalence of sobriety-conducive, and sobriety-supportive, social contexts in the general population during the life-stage of young adulthood, however, 12-step MHOs may play an even more crucial recovery-supportive social role for young adults, but have not been investigated. Greater knowledge could enhance understanding of recovery-related change and inform young adults’ continuing care recommendations. Methods: Emerging adults (N = 302; 18–24 yrs; 26% female; 95% White) enrolled in a study of residential treatment effectiveness were assessed at intake, 1, 3, 6, and 12 months on 12-step attendance, peer network variables (“high [relapse] risk” and “low [relapse] risk” friends), and treatment outcomes (Percent Days Abstinent; Percent Days Heavy Drinking). Hierarchical linear models tested for change in social risk over time and lagged mediational analyses tested whether 12-step attendance conferred recovery benefits via change in social risk. Results: High-risk friends were common at treatment entry, but decreased during follow-up; low-risk friends increased. Contrary to predictions, while substantial recovery-supportive friend network changes were observed, this was unrelated to 12-step participation and, thus, not found to mediate its positive influence on outcome. Conclusions: Young adult 12-step participation confers recovery benefit; yet, while encouraging social network change, 12-step MHOs may be less able to provide social network change directly for young adults, perhaps because similar-aged peers are less common in MHOs. Findings highlight the importance of both social networks and 12-step MHOs and raise further questions as to how young adults benefit from 12-step MHOs.
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