Abstinent networks contribute to increased quality of life
A new article from the NorComt study at SERAF examine how patients are doing one year after starting in treatment and investigate the impact of abstinent networks.
Low quality of life prior to treatment
When 548 adults began inpatient or outpatient treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) in the NorComt study they reported poorer quality of life than reported by studies of cancer patients and other chronic disease groups.
Half of NorComt participants also reported having a substance-using social network, that is, they spent most of their free time with friends and family who also used substances.
The impact of abstinent network
When we interviewed participants one year later, we wanted to see if and how participants changed who they spent their time with, and how these changes affected their quality of life.
Promisingly, participants’ average quality of life scores improved significantly over time. These improvements were largest for those who had gained a new abstinent network and for those who continually had an abstinent network.
Opposite for substance-using network
Having dropped out of treatment and lacking an abstinent network correlated with unimproved or even worsened quality of life. But social isolation was more than double as common among participants who dropped out of treatment.
An immediate task of treatment may be to have patients think through the people they spend their time with and their substance use, and help them identify potential sources of abstinent support.
Lacking any network should be a red flag, and such isolated patients may need particular support developing a network during treatment, both for the sake of improved quality of life and treatment retention.