Newswise — A new service model for addiction recovery support combines voluntary peer-led initiatives with professional support, providing flexible community-based options to address barriers to sustained recovery. Recovery Community Centers (RCCs)  are one of the most common and rapidly expanding examples of this model in the US. RCCs function as recovery hubs for people with substance use disorder, offering a range of support services on the principle that sustained recovery requires not only detoxification and mental health support, but also personal, social, environmental, and cultural resources. Collectively, these resources have been termed ‘recovery capital’. The idea is that boosting an individual’s recovery capital will lead to improvements in quality of life, functioning, and well being that support long-term remission from addiction. However, RCCs have not yet been widely studied, and little is known about their user-base and impact. A new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research is the first systematic attempt to investigate the characteristics of RCC users and the benefts they gain from attending.  

Data were analyzed from 331 attendees of 31 RCCs in the northeastern US. Participants completed an online survey covering their demographics, substance use, mental health, and experiences of RCC services. A standard set of ten research questions to assess recovery capital was also included. Equal numbers of men and women took part. The data showed that RCC attendees were typically middle-aged (average 41 years) and white (79%), and had a low income and level of education. Only 20% were in full-time employment, 24% reported involvement with the legal system, and 49% had a mental health condition. Most attendees (80%) were regular users of multiple substances, with opioids (33%) and alcohol (27%) the most commonly misused primary substances. A third of participants had been in substance use recovery for under a year, and 40% for between one and five years.

Participants usually visited an RCC several times a week, and used a variety of services – most commonly peer-support groups, recovery coaches, recreational offerings, computer and internet technology, and an array of employment, legal, and social services. Many also took the opportunity to volunteer at their center and support other attendees, suggesting that RCCs are perceived as attractive and safe venues. Participants rated RCCs highly in terms of helpfulness for recovery and enhancing quality of life. Statistical analysis showed that longer and more frequent RCC attendance was associated with greater recovery capital, which in turn was related to reduced psychological distress and better self-esteem and quality of life.

The findings provide preliminary but valuable insights into who uses RCCs, how they use them, what they use, and to what end. It appears that RCCs may be particularly helpful to vulnerable individuals who have few resources and initially low recovery capital, but also offer value to many others both in the early years of recovery and beyond. As community-based recovery hubs, RCCs may play a unique role in helping paticipants build recovery capital and enhance functioning and quality of life.

One-stop Shopping for Recovery: an Investigation of Participant Characteristics and Benefits Derived from U.S. Recovery Community Centers. J.F. Kelly, R.L. Stout, L.A. Jason, N. Fallah-Sohy, L.A. Hoffman, B.B. Hoeppner (pages xxx).