What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here?
Sustained abstinence typically requires a stable, alcohol- and drug-free living environment. Without this type of environment, recovery can become difficult and even the most motivated individuals may become derailed on their way to recovery. Sober living houses (SLHs) are alcohol- and drug-free living environments for individuals who are attempting recovery. SLHs are not licensed or funded by State or local governments and the residents themselves pay for costs. The philosophy of recovery emphasizes 12-Step group attendance and peer support. The authors studied 300 individuals entering two different types of SLHs during an 18-month period. This article summarizes the published findings documenting resident improvement on measures of alcohol and drug use, employment, arrests, and psychiatric symptoms. Involvement in 12-Step groups and characteristics of the social network were strong predictors of outcome, reaffirming the importance of social and environmental factors in recovery. This article adds to the author's previous reports by providing a discussion of implications for treatment and criminal justice systems. Also described in this article are the next steps in the author's research on SLHs, which will include: (1) an attempt to improve outcomes for residents referred from the criminal justice system and (2) a depiction of how attitudes of stakeholder groups create a community context that can facilitate and hinder the legitimacy of SLHs as a recovery modality.
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