Newswise — Automobile crashes related to driving while intoxicated (DWI) account for approximately 30 percent of fatal crashes, and 10,000 deaths annually. Social support – defined as emotional, informational, or instrumental help from individuals' social networks – can be helpful to individuals recovering from alcohol use disorders (AUDs). However, it is unclear what impact social support may have on reducing the risk of recidivism of alcohol-impaired driving. This study examined the role of social support in motivating individuals with histories of DWI arrests to reduce their alcohol use.

Researchers recruited 119 adults (81 men, 38 women) with histories of DWI arrests from a correctional treatment facility (n=59) and the local community (n=60). Study participants completed interviews that assessed drinking, psychiatric/physical conditions, and psychosocial factors associated with drinking – such as social support, alcohol-related problems, and motivation to change.

Social support helped individuals with histories of DWI by increasing their motivation to change, specifically, clarifying the importance of change and supporting confidence in change. There were positive effects of social support regardless of the severity of the individuals’ alcohol-related problems.  The effects of social support were greater when it was matched to individuals’ recovery efforts. The study authors noted that offering recovery-specific social-support treatment based on the needs and social environments of the clients – such as family-involved therapy and technology-supported treatment – are likely to be effective options for helping this population reduce their drinking.