The impact of social networks on substance abuse treatment
Goehl, Leslie Rana
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Social support is thought to improve drug abuse outcome as well as overall well-being. However, the potential negative impact of social networks has received less study. The impact of positive and negative social network interaction on substance abuse treatment was studied in a sample of methadone maintenance patients. The following two models of substance abuse were tested: A psychodynamic model which views drug use as a maladaptive form of coping with painful affective experiences resulting from early personality deficits; and a social learning model which describes addiction as a set of learned, maladaptive responses which are reinforced by the continual presence of dysfunctional role models, conditioned cues and cognitive factors which promote continued drug use. Based on the first model it was hypothesized that perceived functional social support would aid in coping with painful affect and decrease the need for drugs. Based on the second model it was hypothesized that substance users in a recovering person's social network may threaten abstinence because they model and reinforce addictive behavior, and may trigger conditioned responses such as drug craving and withdrawal.;Results showed that substance use in the close social network was positively correlated with illicit drug use by the subject, whereas social support showed no significant association. Social support was found to be significantly correlated with level of affect, but the level of affect was not significantly related to illicit drug use. Further, the negative effects of substance use in the social network were not moderated by either the level of social support or the level of affect. These findings suggest that substance use in the social network may have a significant negative impact on treatment outcome for methadone maintenance patients regardless of their current mood or perception of support in their environment. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.