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The role of the environment in aiding recovery from addiction


Many individuals who are attempting to recover from an addiction to alcohol or other drugs are living in damaging social and/or physical environments that do not support recovery. This is a major concern for those involved in the treatment of addiction, as a person’s social and physical environments have been demonstrated to influence the use of both alcohol and drugs. The environment has also been demonstrated to influence the recovery from an addiction. House styled red Admitting persons with substance dependence into inpatient treatment programmes is recognised as being too expensive, and therefore interventions for addicts have shifted towards the use of less costly outpatient services. However, outpatient treatment programmes have the serious limitation of not being able to control the social and living environments of their patients. One attempt to offer an environment that fosters abstinence to those attempting recover from addiction has been the establishment of sober-houses.

Sober-houses are substance-free living environments for persons attempting to abstain from alcohol and/or drugs. These houses vary a great deal in terms of physical characteristics, management style and rehabilitative treatment requirements, but all share similarities in that they offer a drug- and alcohol-free living environment, and that they either require or encourage attendance at 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Distinctions made around rehabilitative treatment range from highly structured settings, where daily residential group therapy and outpatient treatment is mandated and the length of stay is limited, to relatively informal settings, where the residents pay their own rent, stay for as long as they wish, and are not required to participate in any treatment whatsoever. The former are often termed halfway houses and the later are known as sober-living houses. These two types of houses are two opposite poles on a spectrum of houses that offer clean and sober places to live. House styled green Halfway houses tend to be focused on reintegrating former institutionalised people from prisons, hospitals or inpatient rehabs, who require support to restructure their lives outside of the institution. Whereas sober-living houses are simply focused on providing a home for anyone to go to escape their environmental pressures to use a substance. The terms recovery house, residential rehab, sober house and transition house are also used. This paper will use the term sober-house to refer to the whole spectrum of houses assisting in the recovery of substance addiction.