, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 54-60

Do enhanced friendship networks and active coping mediate the effect of self-help groups on substance abuse?

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Self-help groups are the most commonly sought source of help for substance abuse problems, but few studies have evaluated the mechanisms through which they exert their effects on members. The present project evaluates mediators of the effects of self-help groups in a sample of 2,337 male veterans who were treated for substance abuse. The majority of participants became involved in self-help groups after inpatient treatment, and this involvement predicted reduced substance use at 1-year follow-up. Both enhanced friendship networks and increased active coping responses appeared to mediate these effects. Implications for self-help groups and professional treatments are discussed.

Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health strategic Health Group and Health Services Research and Development Service.
Portions of this paper were presented in San Francisco at the Annual Meetings of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (April, 1997) and of the Research Society on Alcoholism (July, 1997).
Drs. Thomas Horvath, Richard Suchinsky, and Karen Boies provided general guidance and administrative support, and Kris Gima and Jennifer Noke assisted in data management. This project also benefitted from the invaluable contributions of the local coordinators, project assistants at each site, and the staff of the Program Evaluation and Resource Center.