Understanding Family Dynamics in Addiction Treatment

Drinking behaviors are often influenced by social networks. Individuals who have family and friends who drink regularly are more likely to drink regularly, and levels of drinking also tend to be positively associated with behaviors of an individual’s social network.

However, when it comes to treatment, those struggling with alcohol use disorder are sometimes in treatment in isolation from their social networks. When treatment is completed, the recovered individuals struggle to stay on track with their newly acquired behaviors in an environment that has remained the same.

A study at a treatment facility in India examined whether family members involvement in relapse prevention would improve the individual’s success in remaining sober. The study was conducted by Prasanthi Nattala, Kit Sang Leung, Nagarajaiah and Pratima Muthy.

The researchers sought to examine whether the involvement of family members in treatment of alcohol-dependent individuals would alter the outcomes. They also wanted to test the factors associated with relapse when the participants were evaluated at a 6-month follow-up period.

The study recruited 90 male participants who were enrolled in an inpatient program at a facility in India. Each participant had been admitted for 3 weeks. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: individual relapse prevention (IRP), dyadic relapse prevention (DRP), and treatment as usual (TAU). There were 30 participants in each group.

In the IRP group, the individual participant received intervention, while in the DRP group both the participant and a family member were included in the intervention. In all three groups, the family members stayed in the facility with the participants. After six months from the patient’s discharge from the treatment facility, the participants were recruited for a follow-up investigation.

The DRP group participants consistently showed better results than those in the TAU group on all of the outcomes, such as reduction in quantity of alcohol, drinking days, and number of days with dysfunction in family, occupational and financial dimensions.

In addition, the DRP group performed better when compared with the IRP group. DRP showed significant reduction in the quantity of alcohol, drinking days and family problems when compared with IRP. The researchers used Cox regression to show that being the IRP or TAU groups, an early onset of dependence and a paternal history of alcohol use disorder were predictors of relapse after adjusting for baseline alcohol use.

The study’s findings show the important of family “buy-in” when an individual enters treatment for alcohol use disorder. The involvement of a family member helps ensure that an individual will be successful in avoiding relapse.