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Social connections can lead to contagion of healthy behaviors. Successful treatment of patients with opioid use disorder may lay in rebuilding social networks. Strong social networks of support can reinforce the benefits of medication treatments that are the current standard of care and the most effective tool physicians have to fight the opioid epidemic. The research team conducted a systematic review of electronic research databases, specialist journals and grey literature up to August 2020 to identify randomized controlled trials of social network support in patient populations receiving medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD). The research team placed the studies into a framework of dynamic social networks, examining the role of networks before MOUD treatment is initiated, during the treatment, and in the long-term following the treatment. The research team analyzed the results across three sources of social network support: partner relationships, family, and peer networks. Of 5193 articles screened, eight studies were identified as meeting inclusion criteria. Five studies indicated that social network support had a statistically significant effect on improved MOUD treatment outcomes. We find the strongest support for the positive impact of family social network support. Social networks significantly shape effectiveness of opioid use disorder treatments. While negative social ties reinforce addiction, positive social support networks can amplify the benefits of medication treatments. Targeted interventions to improve treatment outcomes can be designed and added to MOUD treatment with their effects evaluated in improving patients' odds of recovery from opioid use disorder and reversing the rising trend in opioid deaths. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Navin Kumar, William Oles, Benjamin A Howell, Kamila Janmohamed, Selena T Lee, Melissa C Funaro, Patrick G O'Connor, Marcus Alexander. The role of social network support in treatment outcomes for medication for opioid use disorder: A systematic review. Journal of substance abuse treatment. 2021 Aug;127:108367

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PMID: 34134871

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