Study Supports Value Of Sober Living Houses
Tags: AA alcohol use drug use drug-free environment outpatient treatment sober living houses
Research has shown that relapse rates are high when clients in outpatient programs have to live in situations that are not supportive of recovery. This is especially true in high crime areas and where heavy drinking and drug use is common. In addition, treating homeless persons with addictions is especially challenging because they must deal with survival, health, and safety as well as staying sober. Earlier research showed that when clients received housing as part of their out-patient treatment, they had better retention and achievement of treatment milestones than those who made their own living arrangements. Sober Living Houses (SLH) have been suggested as one possible solution to the housing problems faced by clients attending outpatient treatment. SLH’s are alcohol and drug free living environments for people trying to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Usually they do not provide treatment but require or at least encourage residents to attend self-help groups such as AA. SLH’s differ from conventional half-way houses because they are financially self supporting and clients can stay as long as they follow the house rules.
The objective of this California study was to measure treatment outcomes over an 18 month period from a sample of patients (55) who were provided SLH lodging as part of their outpatient treatment. Participants were male, mean age 43 years, 59% African American, 30% white, 11% other. A fourth were criminal justice referrals. A third were either homeless or lived in a shelter. Residents were dependent on cocaine (60%), alcohol (55%), marijuana (18%), heroin (15%), and amphetamines (12%). Participants were interviewed at intake and at 6, 12, and 18 months. Cash incentives and eliciting extensive contact information produced high follow-up rates of 86% at 6 months, 76% at 12 months and 71% at 18 months.
The study found that the SLH clients experienced significant improvements in measures of alcohol and drug use, arrests, and days worked. Involvement in 12-step groups was the strongest predictor of reductions in alcohol and drug use. These outcomes did not vary by demographics such as age, race, and education. The study concludes that “lack of a living environment that supports sustained recovery is a major obstacle to successful treatment of substance abuse disorders in out-patient programs and SLH’s should be considered as an adjunct to outpatient treatment for clients who have access to limited financial resources or reside in destructive living environments.”
(Polcin, DL, Korcha, R, Bond, J, Galloway, G: Eighteen month outcomes for clients receiving combined outpatient treatment and sober living houses. Journal of Substance Use 2010, 15:352-366.)