How Does Social Support Affect Recovery from Opioid Use Disorder?

The aim of this study was to better understand the role of social networks in maintaining recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD). Researchers completed longitudinal surveys (2 surveys, 3 months apart) with 106 adults receiving medications for OUD in Delaware who planned to disclose their substance use, treatment, or recovery to a person in their life. Surveys assessed the degree of social support provided, and closeness to—and history of shared substance use with—the person to whom they disclosed.

  • Participants who disclosed to someone with whom they felt close had increased commitment to recovery. This was stronger among individuals whose close contacts provided higher social support.
  • Disclosure to someone with whom participants had previously used substances was associated with decreased commitment to recovery.

Comments: Social networks and relationships can influence recovery. This study demonstrates that disclosing substance use, treatment, or recovery to a highly supportive and close person—without a shared substance use history—may be beneficial to recovery.

Elizabeth A. Samuels, MD, MPH, MHS

Reference: Brousseau NM, Karpyn A, Laurenceau JP, et al. The impacts of social support and relationship characteristics on commitment to sobriety among people in opioid use disorder recovery. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2022 Sep;83(5):646–652.

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