Sun. Dec 16th, 2018
New study validates benefits of peer support in addiction treatment

New study validates benefits of peer support in addiction treatment

A study released last September reinforced the benefits of peer recovery for substance addiction. The research was prompted by increasing trends in peer support groups and was aimed at increasing awareness in drug abstinence, reduce relapse and STD-risk behaviors, and inspire self-advocacy in recovering addicts, according to Kathlene Tracy, author of the study and director of community research and recovery program at the New York University School of Medicine. “I’ve had a long-standing interest, both because I see the benefits that it offers to the recipients of the peer supportive treatment, but also the peers delivering the treatment,” said Tracy, who has been researching peer supportive groups for 20 years. “It’s a win-win situation.” Peer support was instrumental in the recovery of Philip Navarrete, 33, who was looking for true sobriety. He had intermittent periods of sobriety from his 15-year addiction to alcohol, but still found himself smoking marijuana, or going back to alcohol. He would eventually check himself into Hope House in Anaheim, California on June 16. The human connections in peer recovery programs like Hope House’s can foster a sense of belonging for recovering addicts like Navarrete, who needed an extra boost of confidence and a feeling of acceptance from people who had similar experiences. “When you put a peer — somebody who has struggled with substance use disorders or psychiatric disorders — in an empowering position within your hospital, you begin to see their strengths and not their weaknesses,” Tracy said. Navarrete has gone from being counseled and seeking support from peers, to providing the kind of support he got at his most vulnerable moments. He’s now part of a peer support group that will soon graduate, and he visits Hope House twice a week to “give [recovering addicts] a little motivation or inspiration,” he said. “There were people (in treatment) that were completely negative… all the time, so I would always make it a point to try to pick their spirits up.” Research has shown the effectiveness of peer support, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Recovery for individuals with behavioral health conditions is greatly enhanced by social connection,” SAMHSA’s website stated. “Yet, many people with mental and/or substance use disorders are not fully engaged in their communities, either through personal relationships, social events, or civic activities. Unfortunately, many individuals often remain socially isolated and excluded.” “(In peer support) you get to meet people from different walks of life, yet you’re all telling a similar tale,” Navarrete said. “You all got to rehab somehow, someway. You all can relate.” Here are a few reasons why peer recovery groups can be effective in treating addiction… (continue reading) Belonging and acceptance – The judgement-free environment in peer recovery groups provides the comfort necessary to feel noticed and appreciated. Common life experiences like drug abuse and recovery, which are constantly shared among peers, will bolster camaraderie and help establish friendships, which might last a lifetime. Strength in numbers – Building and being a part of a community in which each member of the community will become a pillar of strength and help peers in times of weakness. Shared affiliation – Like attending the same school or growing up in the same neighborhood, there is a pride to be shared through a unified experience with fellow peers. The main goal is to succeed through a healthy recovery, and anyone who shares that social support will gain that sense of pride from their journey together. Peer monitoring or coaching – Your peers will be there to motivate you through coaching and care. Coaches can also help you after recovery by providing valuable advice and guidance. “People like me like to come back, show support and pay it forward,” Navarrete said. “The grads that came back to me were really inspirational. You’re going to get (peers) that don’t judge you. They understand where you’re coming from. They’re going to meet you on common ground and they’re going to tell you the choices that you need to make.” Sustained recovery – Remember those friendships you made in rehab? Those peers aren’t just valuable up to the moment of recovery. Sustained recovery is especially important to staying drug-free, and every bond you made in recovery can become an incredible source of strength, relief and inspiration. Navarrete compared peer recovery to working out at the gym. “Now you have to maintain it,” he said. “Everyday you have to wake up and workout together just to maintain it, and that’s the same with sobriety; you get in great shape, you have to maintain it, and the peer support group is like going to the gym with your buddy.” Meaning and purpose – Becoming part of a social support group can increase your sense of self-worth because of your integral role in helping others during critical times. Every peer will look to each other for help, and that will increase everyone’s chances of a full recovery, and belief in themselves. Networking and resources – Everyone involved in your peer recovery group will become a resource for networking. Staying clean will come with questions, concerns and hardships, but networking can also lead you to the proper resources to sustain a clean and healthy life. Addiction treatment doesn’t need to be a lonely and withdrawn experience, according to Navarrete. “I’ve definitely gone the sober-on-my-own route and had mixed success,” he said. “Sometimes I’d be sober for a week. There were times I was sober for several months. There’s even one year where I was sober for a whole year, but there are a couple of big differences between those periods of time and this time. Those times, I would sober up from alcohol, because I’m an alcoholic. I would still smoke marijuana consistently, and I’d say I was sober. So this is my first time literally being sober off of everything. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I’m drug-free completely.”