Social Networks and Recovery Study (SONAR)


Alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems are associated with a broad range of health and social harms that affect individuals, families and communities. Evidence across a range of international and Australian cohort studies shows a clear benefit from engaging in alcohol and other drug treatment, although relapse rates are high and positive treatment outcomes typically decline over time. This research shows that many individuals do recover from alcohol and other drug problems, but that the time taken to achieve recovery varies with research indicating that a typical addiction career lasts around two decades. As harms associated with AOD use can accrue over time, understanding how to reduce the time taken to achieve recovery is critical. While the literature on how recovery emerges is limited, it is clear that social networks play a vital role. Given this, the social identity perspective — with its focus on how memberships of groups affect identity and behaviour in different social contexts, and across life transitions — offers a novel theoretical perspective for addiction recovery.

The SONAR study is a multi-site longitudinal cohort study assessing the impact of engaging in therapeutic community (TC) treatment on recovery, with a particular emphasis on the impact of social network and social identity change on recovery pathways. It is the largest Australian cohort study examining outcomes following TC treatment - a form of long-term alcohol and other drug residential rehabilitation that promotes social network and identity change. The core aims of the study are to measure social networks and social identities, how these change during and beyond TC treatment and to assess their effects on the initial stages of the recovery journey. In particular, this study seeks to identify the factors that predict TC treatment completion and recovery maintenance at 6- and 12-months post-entry, focusing specifically on the role that social identities play alongside other more traditional predictors.

Recruitment for the SONAR study was conducted from 2014 to 2017.

Project team

Turning Point team

Professor Dan Lubman, Dr Michael Savic, Mr Ramez Bathish, Mr Jock Mackenzie, and Ms Melinda Beckwith.

Project partners

Professor David Best (University of Derby), Professor Catherin Haslam (University of Queensland), Associate Professor Genevieve Dingle (University of Queensland), and Associate Professor Petra Staiger (Deakin University).

Learn more about this project

Peer-reviewed Journal articles: