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The Role of the Social Environment in Alcohol or Drug Relapse of Probationers Recently Released From Jail

Owens, Mandy D. MS; McCrady, Barbara S. PhD

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: December 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 4 - p 179–189
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000039
Original Articles

Objectives: Many individuals involved with the criminal justice system also meet the criteria for a substance-use disorder. Social support has been identified as an important factor in alcohol and drug relapse and also for individuals who are incarcerated. The purposes of this study were to describe personal characteristics and the social networks of adult male probationers with substance-use disorders and to test how changes in social networks related to alcohol or drug use after release from the jail.

Methods: Fifty adult male probationers who were recently incarcerated (60 to 210 d before screening) were recruited from a large Southwest Probation and Parole Division office and were administered a single assessment that assessed demographic information, social networks, and quantity and frequency of alcohol and drug use before and after incarceration.

Results: In this sample, there was an overrepresentation of ethnic minorities, higher rates of unemployment, lower educational levels, and lower median income than national averages. Results showed that there were significant changes in social networks from preincarceration to postincarceration. In addition, changes in social networks significantly predicted substance use after release from jail, even after controlling for substance use before incarceration, and the percentage of social network members who were heavy drug users mediated percent days abstinent from alcohol and drugs from preincarceration to postincarceration.

Conclusions: Social networks and social support may operate as dynamic factors in relapse and may be a target for intervention for adult males with substance-use disorders being released from jail.

Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Supported by internal grants from the Office of Graduate Studies, Graduate and Professional Student Association, and the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico; and NIAAA grant T32-AA018108.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Mandy D. Owens, MS, Department of Psychology, 1 University of New Mexico, MSC03 2220, Albuquerque, NM 87106 (e-mail:

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