Composition of social networks to build recovery capital differ across early and stable stages of recovery

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Background: Recovery capital describes the sum of resources–personal, social, or community–that can be drawn upon to sustain recovery from addiction. Recovery capital increases with progression through the stages of recovery; early (< 1 year), sustained (1 to 5 years), stable (> 5 years). The proportion of people in recovery within one’s social network, as well as the number of supports, have been associated with greater recovery capital, although recovery capital has been found to be lower if one’s entire network is in recovery. It remains unclear which social network characteristics are more important at early compared to stable recovery stages. Method: The study assesses recovery strengths and barriers using the Strengths and Barriers Recovery Scale (SABRS) from the Australian Life in Recovery survey (n = 478). SABRS scores were compared between periods of active addiction and recovery, and across the stages of recovery. The impact of social network characteristics on SABRS score across early and stable recovery stages were also explored. Results: Recovery social network diversity (some network members in recovery but not all or none) was associated with more recovery strengths in early but not stable recovery. However, for those in stable recovery, having a greater number of close people in a network was more important. Conclusion: The study provides evidence that the elements (e.g. diversity and number of supports) of a social network that facilitate recovery capital change as individuals progress through recovery stages, and highlights the importance of peer support in early recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalAddiction Research & Theory
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2023


  • addiction
  • recovery capital
  • recovery careers
  • Recovery stages
  • social network

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