Whether, when, and to whom?: An investigation of comfort with disclosing alcohol and other drug histories in a nationally representative sample of recovering persons.



BACKGROUND: Due to shame and fear of discrimination, individuals in, or seeking, recovery from alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems often struggle with whether, when, and to whom to disclose information regarding their AOD histories and recovery status. This can serve as a barrier to obtaining needed recovery support. Consequently, disclosure may have important implications for recovery trajectories, yet is poorly understood.

DESIGN AND SAMPLE: Cross-sectional, U.S. nationally-representative survey conducted in 2016 among individuals with resolved AOD problems (N = 1987) investigated disclosure comfort and whether disclosure comfort differed by time since problem resolution, disclosure recipient (i.e., with interpersonal intimacy), or primary substance (i.e., alcohol [51%], cannabis [11%], opioids [5%], or "other" [33%]). Predictors of disclosure comfort were also examined. Data were analyzed using LOWESS analyses, analyses of variance, and regression.

RESULTS: Overall, longer time since problem resolution was associated with greater disclosure comfort. In general, participants reported greater comfort with disclosure to family and friends, and less comfort with disclosure to co-workers, to first-time acquaintances, in public settings, and in the media, but these effects varied by primary drug with participants who had problems with alcohol and "other" drugs having significantly more disclosure comfort than those who had problems with opioids.

CONCLUSION: Dimensions of time since AOD problem resolution, interpersonal intimacy, and primary drug are significantly associated with disclosure comfort. Individuals seeking recovery may benefit from more formal coaching around disclosure, particularly those with primary opioid problems, but further research is needed to determine the desire for and effects of such coaching among those seeking recovery.



KEYWORDS: Disclosure; Recovery; Remission; Substance use disorder

Publisher's Version

Last updated on 07/01/2019