Publications by Year: 2020

Kelly, P. J., Beck, A. K., Baker, A. L., Deane, F. P., Hides, L., Manning, V., Shakeshaft, A., et al. (2020). Feasibility of a Mobile Health App for Routine Outcome Monitoring and Feedback in Mutual Support Groups Coordinated by SMART Recovery Australia: Protocol for a Pilot Study. JMIR Research Protocols , 9 (7), e15113. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: Despite the importance and popularity of mutual support groups, there have been no systematic attempts to implement and evaluate routine outcome monitoring (ROM) in these settings. Unlike other mutual support groups for addiction, trained facilitators lead all Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) groups, thereby providing an opportunity to implement ROM as a routine component of SMART Recovery groups.

Objective: This study protocol aims to describe a stage 1 pilot study designed to explore the feasibility and acceptability of a novel, purpose-built mobile health (mHealth) ROM and feedback app (Smart Track) in SMART Recovery groups coordinated by SMART Recovery Australia (SRAU) The secondary objectives are to describe Smart Track usage patterns, explore psychometric properties of the ROM items (ie, internal reliability and convergent and divergent validity), and provide preliminary evidence for participant reported outcomes (such as alcohol and other drug use, self-reported recovery, and mental health).

Methods: Participants (n=100) from the SMART Recovery groups across New South Wales, Australia, will be recruited to a nonrandomized, prospective, single-arm trial of the Smart Track app. There are 4 modes of data collection: (1) ROM data collected from group participants via the Smart Track app, (2) data analytics summarizing user interactions with Smart Track, (3) quantitative interview and survey data of group participants (baseline, 2-week follow-up, and 2-month follow-up), and (4) qualitative interviews with group participants (n=20) and facilitators (n=10). Feasibility and acceptability (primary objectives) will be analyzed using descriptive statistics, a cost analysis, and a qualitative evaluation.

Results: At the time of submission, 13 sites (25 groups per week) had agreed to be involved. Funding was awarded on August 14, 2017, and ethics approval was granted on April 26, 2018 (HREC/18/WGONG/34; 2018/099). Enrollment is due to commence in July 2019. Data collection is due to be finalized in October 2019.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to use ROM and tailored feedback within a mutual support group setting for addictive behaviors. Our study design will provide an opportunity to identify the acceptability of a novel mHealth ROM and feedback app within this setting and provide detailed information on what factors promote or hinder ROM usage within this context. This project aims to offer a new tool, should Smart Track prove feasible and acceptable, that service providers, policy makers, and researchers could use in the future to understand the impact of SMART Recovery groups.

Kelly, J. F., Abry, A., Ferri, M., & Humphreys, K. (2020). Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step facilitation treatments for alcohol use disorder: A distillation of a 2020 Cochrane review for clinicians and policy makers. Alcohol and Alcoholism , 55 (6), 641-651. Publisher's VersionAbstract


A recently completed Cochrane review assessed the effectiveness and cost-benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and clinically delivered 12-Step Facilitation (TSF) interventions for alcohol use disorder (AUD). This paper summarizes key findings and discusses implications for practice and policy.


Cochrane review methods were followed. Searches were conducted across all major databases (e.g. Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group Specialized Register, PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO and from inception to 2 August 2019 and included non-English language studies. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-experiments that compared AA/TSF with other interventions, such as motivational enhancement therapy (MET) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), TSF treatment variants or no treatment, were included. Healthcare cost offset studies were also included. Studies were categorized by design (RCT/quasi-experimental; nonrandomized; economic), degree of manualization (all interventions manualized versus some/none) and comparison intervention type (i.e. whether AA/TSF was compared to an intervention with a different theoretical orientation or an AA/TSF intervention that varied in style or intensity). Random-effects meta-analyses were used to pool effects where possible using standard mean differences (SMD) for continuous outcomes (e.g. percent days abstinent (PDA)) and the relative risk ratios (RRs) for dichotomous.


A total of 27 studies (21 RCTs/quasi-experiments, 5 nonrandomized and 1 purely economic study) containing 10,565 participants were included. AA/TSF interventions performed at least as well as established active comparison treatments (e.g. CBT) on all outcomes except for abstinence where it often outperformed other treatments. AA/TSF also demonstrated higher health care cost savings than other AUD treatments.


AA/TSF interventions produce similar benefits to other treatments on all drinking-related outcomes except for continuous abstinence and remission, where AA/TSF is superior. AA/TSF also reduces healthcare costs. Clinically implementing one of these proven manualized AA/TSF interventions is likely to enhance outcomes for individuals with AUD while producing health economic benefits.

Bergman, B. G., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Online digital recovery support services: An overview of the science and their potential to help individuals with substance use disorder during COVID-19 and beyond. Journal of Substance Use Treatment , 120, 108152. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and related social distancing public health recommendations will have indirect consequences for individuals with current and remitted substance use disorder (SUD). Not only will stressors increase risk for symptom exacerbation and/or relapse, but individuals will also have limited service access during this critical time. Individuals with SUD are using free, online digital recovery support services (D-RSS) that leverage peer-to-peer connection (i.e., social-online D-RSS) which simultaneously help these individuals to access support and adhere to public health guidelines. Barriers to SUD treatment and recovery support service access, however, are not unique to the COVID-19 epoch. The pandemic creates an opportunity to highlight problems that will persist beyond its immediate effects, and to offer potential solutions that might help address these long-standing, systemic issues. To help providers and other key stakeholders effectively support those interested in, or who might benefit from, participation in free, social-online D-RSS, this review outlines the following: 1) theories of expected therapeutic benefits from, and potential drawbacks of social-online D-RSS participation; 2) a typology that can be used to describe and classify D-RSS; 3) a D-RSS "case study" to illustrate how to apply the theory and typology; 4) what is known empirically about social-online D-RSS; and 5) whether and how to engage individuals with these online resources.

Method: Narrative review combining research and theory on both in-person recovery supports and social-online D-RSS.

Results: Studies examining in-person recovery support services, such as AA and other mutual-help organizations, combined with theory about how social-online D-RSS might confer benefit, suggest these digital supports may engage individuals with SUD and mobilize salutary change in similar ways. While people may use in-person and digital supports simultaneously, when comparing the two modalities, communication science and telemedicine group therapy data suggest that D-RSS may not provide the same magnitude of benefit as in-person services. D-RSS can be classified based on the a) type of service, b) type of platform, c) points of access, and d) organizations responsible for their delivery. Research has not yet rigorously tested the effectiveness of social-online D-RSS specifically, though existing data suggest that those who use these services generally find their participation to be helpful. Content analyses suggest that these services are likely to facilitate social support and unlikely to expose individuals to harmful situations.

Kelly, J. F., Greene, M. C., Hoffman, L., Hoeppner, B. B., & Bergman, B. G. (2020). On providing smoking cessation services in alcohol and other drug treatment settings: Results from a U.S. national survey of attitudes among recovering persons. Journal of Substance Use Treatment , 117, 108057. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: Nicotine addiction through cigarette use is highly prevalent among individuals suffering from alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems and remains a prominent risk factor for morbidity, mortality, and healthcare utilization. Whereas most people agree that providing smoking cessation services (SCS) to this vulnerable population is vitally important, the timing of such service provision has been hotly debated, including whether such services should be excluded, available (but not offered), offered, or fully integrated into AOD treatment settings. Important stakeholders in this debate are those in recovery from AOD problems who, in addition to having often been AOD treatment patients themselves, frequently hold influential clinical, research or policy positions and thus can influence the likelihood of SCS provision. This study sought to understand the attitudes of this important stakeholder group in providing SCS in AOD treatment settings.

Method: We assessed a national cross-sectional sample of individuals in recovery from an AOD problem (n = 1973) on whether SCS should be: a. excluded; b. available; c. offered; or d. integrated into AOD services. We estimated associations between participants' demographic, clinical, and recovery support service use history, and SCS attitude variables, using multinomial logistic regression.

Results: Roughly equal proportions endorsed each attitudinal position (23.5% excluded, 25% available, 24.6% offered; 26.9% integrated). Correlates of holding more positive SCS implementation attitudes were Black race; primary substance other than alcohol, greater intensity of former or recent smoking, and less mutual-help organization participation; older individuals achieving recovery between 30 and 40 years ago also had more positive attitudes toward integrating SCS.

Conclusions: About half of those sampled were either against SCS inclusion in AOD settings or were in favor of making it "available" only, but not in offering it or integrating it. This oppositional pattern was accentuated particularly among those with primary alcohol problem histories and those participating in mutual-help organizations. Given the universally well-known negative health effects of smoking, understanding more about the exact reasons why certain groups of recovering persons may endorse such positions is an area worthy of further investigation, as it may uncover potential barriers to SCS implementation in AOD treatment settings.

Humphreys, K., Barreto, N. B., Alessi, S. M., Carroll, K. M., Crits-Christoph, P., Donovan, D. M., Kelly, J. F., et al. (2020). Impact of 12-step mutual help groups on drug use disorder patients across six clinical trials. Drug and Alcohol Dependence , 215, 108213. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: 12 step mutual help groups are widely accessed by people with drug use disorder but infrequently subjected to rigorous evaluation. Pooling randomized trials containing a condition in which mutual help group attendance is actively facilitated presents an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of 12 step groups in large, diverse samples of drug use disorder patients.

Methods: Data from six federally-funded randomized trials were pooled (n = 1730) and subjected to two-stage instrumental variables modelling, and, fixed and random effects regression models. All trials included a 12 step group facilitation condition and employed the Addiction Severity Index as a core measure.

Results: The ability of 12 step facilitation to increase mutual help group participation among drug use disorder patients was minimal, limiting ability to employ two-stage instrumental variable models that correct for selection bias. However, traditional fixed and random effect regression models found that greater 12 step mutual help group attendance by drug use disorder patients predicted reduced use of and problems with illicit drugs and also with alcohol.

Conclusion: Facilitating significant and lasting involvement in 12 step groups may be more challenging for drug use disorder patients than for alcohol use disorder patients, which has important implications for clinical work and for effectiveness evaluations. Though selection bias could explain part of the results of traditional regression models, the finding that participation in 12 step mutual help groups predicts lower illicit drug and alcohol use and problems in a large, diverse, sample of drug use disorder patients is encouraging.

Bergman, B. G., Kelly, J. F., Fava, M., & Evins, A. E. (2020). Online recovery support meetings can help mitigate the public health consequences of COVID-19 for individuals with substance use disorder. Addiction Behaviors , 113, 106661. Publisher's VersionAbstract

For people with current and remitted substance use disorder (SUD), the COVID-19 pandemic increases risk for symptom exacerbation and relapse through added stressors and reduced service access. In response, mutual-help groups and recovery community organizations have increased access to online recovery support meetings. However, rigorous studies examining online recovery support meeting participation to inform best practices have not yet been conducted. In the absence of such studies, a review of relevant literature, considered in context of potential barriers and drawbacks, suggests the risk-to-benefit ratio is favorable. Particularly given limited in-person SUD service access resulting from COVID-19 precautions, online recovery support meetings may help mitigate a key public health problem during an ongoing, public health pandemic.

Schiff, D. M., Nielsen, T., Hoeppner, B. B., Terplan, M., Hansen, H., Bernson, D., Diop, H., et al. (2020). Assessment of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Use of Medication to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Among Pregnant Women in Massachusetts. JAMA Network Open , 3 (5), e205734. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Racial and ethnic disparities persist across key health and substance use treatment outcomes for mothers and infants. The use of medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine, for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) has been associated with improvements in the outcomes of mothers and infants; however, only half of all pregnant women with OUD receive these medications. The extent to which maternal race or ethnicity is associated with the use of medication to treat OUD, the duration of the use of medication to treat OUD, and the type of medication used to treat OUD during pregnancy are unknown.


To examine the extent to which maternal race and ethnicity is associated with the use of medications for the treatment of OUD in the year before delivery among pregnant women with OUD.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This retrospective cohort study used a linked population-level statewide data set of pregnant women with OUD who delivered a live infant in Massachusetts between October 1, 2011, and December 31, 2015. Of 274 234 total deliveries identified, 5247 deliveries among women with indicators of having OUD were included in the analysis. Maternal race and ethnicity were defined as white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, or Hispanic based on self-reported data on birth certificates.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Main outcomes were the receipt of any medication for OUD, the consistency of the use of medication (at least 6 continuous months of use before delivery, inconsistent use, or no use) for the treatment of OUD, and the type of medication (methadone or buprenorphine) used to treat OUD. Multivariable models were adjusted for maternal sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidities, and any significant interactions between the covariates and race and ethnicity.


The sample included 5247 pregnant women with OUD who delivered a live infant in Massachusetts during the study period. The mean (SD) maternal age at delivery was 28.7 (5.0) years; 4551 women (86.7%) were white non-Hispanic, 462 women (8.8%) were Hispanic, and 234 women (4.5%) were black non-Hispanic. A total of 3181 white non-Hispanic women (69.9%) received any type of medication for the treatment of OUD in the year before delivery compared with 228 Hispanic women (49.4%) and 108 black non-Hispanic women (46.2%). Compared with white non-Hispanic women, black non-Hispanic and Hispanic women had a substantially lower likelihood (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.37; 95% CI, 0.28-0.49 and aOR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.35-0.52, respectively) of receiving any medication for the treatment of OUD. Stratification by maternal age identified greater disparities among younger women. Black non-Hispanic and Hispanic women also had a lower likelihood (aOR, 0.24; 95% CI, 0.17-0.35 and aOR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.27-0.44, respectively) of consistent use of medication for the treatment of OUD compared with white non-Hispanic women. With respect to the type of medication used to treat OUD, black non-Hispanic and Hispanic women had a lower likelihood (aOR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.40-0.90 and aOR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.58-1.01, respectively) than white non-Hispanic women of receiving buprenorphine treatment compared with methadone treatment.

Conclusions and Relevance

This study found racial and ethnic disparities in the use of medications to treat OUD during pregnancy, with black non-Hispanic and Hispanic women significantly less likely to use medications consistently or at all compared with white non-Hispanic women. Further investigation of patient, clinician, treatment program, and system-level factors associated with these findings is warranted.

Nash, A. J., Hennessy, E. A., Collier, C., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Young people's perceptions of the 12-steps’ role in supporting their recovery (or not). Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse , 28 (5), 388-402. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although 12-step participation is related to improved outcomes, young people’s 12-step involvement is rare. There is limited research on the role of 12-step philosophy and practices for supporting young people’s recovery or addressing why so few engage in 12-step practices. To explore these issues, content analysis was applied to qualitative data from two prior studies conducted with individuals who participated in an Alternative Peer Group (APG), a 12-step facilitated adolescent recovery support model. Findings revealed new information on barriers to 12-step involvement and suggest strategies for addressing barriers, boosting motivation, and changing young people’s perceptions of 12-step philosophy and practices.

Eddie, D., Vilsaint, C. L., Hoffman, L. A., Bergman, B. G., Kelly, J. F., & Hoeppner, B. B. (2020). From working on recovery to working in recovery: Employment status among a nationally representative U.S. sample of individuals who have resolved a significant alcohol or other drug problem. Journal of Substance Use Treatment , 113, 108000. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use disorders exact a prodigious annual economic toll in the United States (U.S.), driven largely by lost productivity due to illness-related absenteeism, underemployment, and unemployment. While recovery from AOD disorders is associated with improved health and functioning, little is known specifically about increases in productivity due to new or resumed employment and who may continue to struggle. Also, because employment can buffer relapse risk by providing structure, meaning, purpose, and income, greater knowledge in this regard would inform relapse prevention efforts as well as employment-related policy. We conducted a cross-sectional, nationally representative survey of the U.S. adult population assessing persons who reported having resolved an AOD problem (n = 2002). Weighted employment, unemployment, retirement, and disability statistics were compared to the general U.S. population. Logistic and linear regression models tested for differences in employment and unemployment among demographic categories and measures of well-being. Compared to the general U.S. population, individuals who had resolved an AOD problem were less likely to be employed or retired, and more likely to be unemployed and disabled. Certain recovering subgroups, including those identifying as black and those with histories of multiple arrests, were further disadvantaged. Conversely, certain factors, such as a higher level of education and less prior criminal justice involvement were associated with lower unemployment risk. Despite being in recovery from an AOD problem, individuals continue to struggle with obtaining employment, particularly black Americans and those with prior criminal histories. Given the importance of employment in addiction recovery and relapse prevention, more research is needed to identify employment barriers so that they can be effectively addressed.

Kelly, J. F., Humphreys, K., & Ferri, M. (2020). Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs for alcohol use disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , (3), Art. No.: CD012880. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) confers a prodigious burden of disease, disability, premature mortality, and high economic costs from lost productivity, accidents, violence, incarceration, and increased healthcare utilization. For over 80 years, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been a widespread AUD recovery organization, with millions of members and treatment free at the point of access, but it is only recently that rigorous research on its effectiveness has been conducted.


To evaluate whether peer‐led AA and professionally‐delivered treatments that facilitate AA involvement (Twelve‐Step Facilitation (TSF) interventions) achieve important outcomes, specifically: abstinence, reduced drinking intensity, reduced alcohol‐related consequences, alcohol addiction severity, and healthcare cost offsets.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group Specialized Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PubMed, Embase, CINAHL and PsycINFO from inception to 2 August 2019. We searched for ongoing and unpublished studies via and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) on 15 November 2018. All searches included non‐English language literature. We handsearched references of topic‐related systematic reviews and bibliographies of included studies.

Selection criteria

We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), quasi‐RCTs and non‐randomized studies that compared AA or TSF (AA/TSF) with other interventions, such as motivational enhancement therapy (MET) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), TSF treatment variants, or no treatment. We also included healthcare cost offset studies. Participants were non‐coerced adults with AUD.

Data collection and analysis

We categorized studies by: study design (RCT/quasi‐RCT; non‐randomized; economic); degree of standardized manualization (all interventions manualized versus some/none); and comparison intervention type (i.e. whether AA/TSF was compared to an intervention with a different theoretical orientation or an AA/TSF intervention that varied in style or intensity). For analyses, we followed Cochrane methodology calculating the standard mean difference (SMD) for continuous variables (e.g. percent days abstinent (PDA)) or the relative risk (risk ratios (RRs)) for dichotomous variables. We conducted random‐effects meta‐analyses to pool effects wherever possible.

Main results

We included 27 studies containing 10,565 participants (21 RCTs/quasi‐RCTs, 5 non‐randomized, and 1 purely economic study). The average age of participants within studies ranged from 34.2 to 51.0 years. AA/TSF was compared with psychological clinical interventions, such as MET and CBT, and other 12‐step program variants.

We rated selection bias as being at high risk in 11 of the 27 included studies, unclear in three, and as low risk in 13. We rated risk of attrition bias as high risk in nine studies, unclear in 14, and low in four, due to moderate (> 20%) attrition rates in the study overall (8 studies), or in study treatment group (1 study). Risk of bias due to inadequate researcher blinding was high in one study, unclear in 22, and low in four. Risks of bias arising from the remaining domains were predominantly low or unclear.

AA/TSF (manualized) compared to treatments with a different theoretical orientation (e.g. CBT) (randomized/quasi‐randomized evidence)

RCTs comparing manualized AA/TSF to other clinical interventions (e.g. CBT), showed AA/TSF improves rates of continuous abstinence at 12 months (risk ratio (RR) 1.21, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03 to 1.42; 2 studies, 1936 participants; high‐certainty evidence). This effect remained consistent at both 24 and 36 months.

For percentage days abstinent (PDA), AA/TSF appears to perform as well as other clinical interventions at 12 months (mean difference (MD) 3.03, 95% CI ‐4.36 to 10.43; 4 studies, 1999 participants; very low‐certainty evidence), and better at 24 months (MD 12.91, 95% CI 7.55 to 18.29; 2 studies, 302 participants; very low‐certainty evidence) and 36 months (MD 6.64, 95% CI 1.54 to 11.75; 1 study, 806 participants; very low‐certainty evidence).

For longest period of abstinence (LPA), AA/TSF may perform as well as comparison interventions at six months (MD 0.60, 95% CI ‐0.30 to 1.50; 2 studies, 136 participants; low‐certainty evidence).

For drinking intensity, AA/TSF may perform as well as other clinical interventions at 12 months, as measured by drinks per drinking day (DDD) (MD ‐0.17, 95% CI ‐1.11 to 0.77; 1 study, 1516 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence) and percentage days heavy drinking (PDHD) (MD ‐5.51, 95% CI ‐14.15 to 3.13; 1 study, 91 participants; low‐certainty evidence).

For alcohol‐related consequences, AA/TSF probably performs as well as other clinical interventions at 12 months (MD ‐2.88, 95% CI ‐6.81 to 1.04; 3 studies, 1762 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence).

For alcohol addiction severity, one study found evidence of a difference in favor of AA/TSF at 12 months (P < 0.05; low‐certainty evidence).

AA/TSF (non‐manualized) compared to treatments with a different theoretical orientation (e.g. CBT) (randomized/quasi‐randomized evidence)

For the proportion of participants completely abstinent, non‐manualized AA/TSF may perform as well as other clinical interventions at three to nine months follow‐up (RR 1.71, 95% CI 0.70 to 4.18; 1 study, 93 participants; low‐certainty evidence).

Non‐manualized AA/TSF may also perform slightly better than other clinical interventions for PDA (MD 3.00, 95% CI 0.31 to 5.69; 1 study, 93 participants; low‐certainty evidence).

For drinking intensity, AA/TSF may perform as well as other clinical interventions at nine months, as measured by DDD (MD ‐1.76, 95% CI ‐2.23 to ‐1.29; 1 study, 93 participants; very low‐certainty evidence) and PDHD (MD 2.09, 95% CI ‐1.24 to 5.42; 1 study, 286 participants; low‐certainty evidence).

None of the RCTs comparing non‐manualized AA/TSF to other clinical interventions assessed LPA, alcohol‐related consequences, or alcohol addiction severity.

Cost‐effectiveness studies

In three studies, AA/TSF had higher healthcare cost savings than outpatient treatment, CBT, and no AA/TSF treatment. The fourth study found that total medical care costs decreased for participants attending CBT, MET, and AA/TSF treatment, but that among participants with worse prognostic characteristics AA/TSF had higher potential cost savings than MET (moderate‐certainty evidence).

Authors' conclusions

There is high quality evidence that manualized AA/TSF interventions are more effective than other established treatments, such as CBT, for increasing abstinence. Non‐manualized AA/TSF may perform as well as these other established treatments. AA/TSF interventions, both manualized and non‐manualized, may be at least as effective as other treatments for other alcohol‐related outcomes. AA/TSF probably produces substantial healthcare cost savings among people with alcohol use disorder.

Kelly, J. F., Stout, R., Jason, L., Hoffman, L., Fallah-Sohy, N., & Hoeppner, B. (2020). One-stop shopping for recovery: An investigation of participant characteristics and benefits derived from U.S. Recovery Community Centers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research , 44 (3), 711-721. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Recovery community centers (RCCs) are the "new kid on the block" in providing addiction recovery services, adding a third tier to the 2 existing tiers of formal treatment and mutual-help organizations (MHOs). RCCs are intended to be recovery hubs facilitating "one-stop shopping" in the accrual of recovery capital (e.g., recovery coaching; employment/educational linkages). Despite their growth, little is known about who uses RCCs, what they use, and how use relates to improvements in functioning and quality of life. Greater knowledge would inform the field about RCC's potential clinical and public health utility.


Online survey conducted with participants (N = 336) attending RCCs (k = 31) in the northeastern United States. Substance use history, services used, and derived benefits (e.g., quality of life) were assessed. Systematic regression modeling tested a priori theorized relationships among variables.


RCC members (n = 336) were on average 41.1 ± 12.4 years of age, 50% female, predominantly White (78.6%), with high school or lower education (48.8%), and limited income (45.2% <$10,000 past-year household income). Most had either a primary opioid (32.7%) or alcohol (26.8%) problem. Just under half (48.5%) reported a lifetime psychiatric diagnosis. Participants had been attending RCCs for 2.6 ± 3.4 years, with many attending <1 year (35.4%). Most commonly used aspects were the socially oriented mutual-help/peer groups and volunteering, but technological assistance and employment assistance were also common. Conceptual model testing found RCCs associated with increased recovery capital, but not social support; both of these theorized proximal outcomes, however, were related to improvements in psychological distress, self-esteem, and quality of life.


RCCs are utilized by an array of individuals with few resources and primary opioid or alcohol histories. Whereas strong social supportive elements were common and highly rated, RCCs appear to play a more unique role not provided either by formal treatment or by MHOs in facilitating the acquisition of recovery capital and thereby enhancing functioning and quality of life.

Kelly, J. F., & Eddie, D. E. (2020). The role of spirituality and religiosity in aiding recovery from alcohol and other drug problems: An investigation in a national U.S. sample. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality , 12 (1), 116-123. Publisher's VersionAbstract
More Americans than ever before are identifying as “spiritual but not religious.” Both spirituality and religiosity (S/R) are of interest in the addiction field as they are related to alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems and are central to some recovery pathways. Yet little is known overall about S/R identification among people in recovery, the role these play in aiding recovery, and whether they play more or less of a role for certain subgroups (e.g., men/women, different races/ethnicities; those with treatment or 12-step histories). Here we characterize S/R and its associations with AOD recovery in a nationally representative, cross-sectional sample of U.S. adults (N = 39,809) screening positive to the question, “Did you use to have a problem with alcohol or drugs but no longer do?” (final weighted sample n = 2,002). Weighted chi-square and Poisson-distributed generalized linear mixed models were used to assess S/R and test for differences across subgroups on extent of spiritual, and religious identification, and the extent to which these had aided individuals’ recovery. Participants mostly reported being moderately spiritual and religious, and that overall, religion had not helped them overcome their AOD problem. In contrast, spirituality was most commonly reported as either not helping at all, or having made all the difference in terms of helping individuals overcome their AOD problem. Further, substantial differences were observed by race/ethnicity across both spirituality and religiosity, and to a lesser degree between men and women. Black Americans reported substantially more S/R than Whites, and that these often made all the difference in their recovery. The exact opposite trend was observed for White and Hispanic Americans. Prior professional treatment and 12-step mutual-aid use were both related to greater spirituality, but not religiosity. Overall, spirituality but not religion, appears to play a role in aiding recovery, particularly among those with prior treatment or 12-step histories, but women and men, and racial-ethnic groups in particular, differ strikingly in their spiritual and religious identification, and the role these have played in aiding recovery. These differences raise the question of the potential clinical utility of S/R in personalized treatment. 
Hoffman, L. A., Vilsaint, C., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Recovery from opioid problems in the U.S. population: Prevalence, pathways, and psychosocial well-being. Journal of Addiction Medicine , 14 (3), 207-216. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Research has enhanced our understanding of opioid misuse prevalence and consequences, but few studies have examined recovery from opioid problems. Estimating national recovery prevalence and characterizing individuals who have resolved opioid problems can inform policy and clinical approaches to address opioid misuse.


We conducted a cross-sectional investigation of a nationally-representative sample of US adults who reported opioidproblem resolution (OPI). For reference, OPI was compared with an alcohol problem resolution group (ALC). Analyses estimated OPI/ALC prevalence, differences in treatment/recovery service use, and psychological well-being, within 2 recovery windows: <1 year (early recovery) and 1 to 5 years (mid-recovery) since OPI/ALC problem resolution.


Of those who reported alcohol or drug use problem resolution, weighted problem resolution prevalence was 5.3% for opioids (early recovery 1.2%, mid-recovery 2.2%) and 51.2% for alcohol (early recovery 7.0%, mid-recovery 11.5%). In mid-recovery, lifetime use of formal treatment, pharmacotherapy, recovery support services, mutual help, and current pharmacotherapy were more prevalent in OPI than ALC. Service utilization did not differ between early-recovery OPI and ALC. Common services used by OPI included inpatient treatment (37.8%) and state/local recovery organizations (24.4%) in mid-recovery; outpatient treatment (25.7%) and recovery community centers (27.2%) in early recovery; Narcotics Anonymous (40.2%-57.8%) and buprenorphine-naloxone (15.3%-26.7%) in both recovery cohorts. Regarding well-being, OPI reported higher self-esteem than ALC in early recovery, and lower self-esteem than ALC in mid-recovery.


An estimated 1.2 million American adults report resolving an opioid problem. Given the service use outcomes and longer-term problem resolution of mid-recovery OPI, early-recovery OPI may require encouragement to utilize additional or more intensive services to achieve longer-term recovery. OPI beyond recovery-year 1 may need enhanced support to address deficient self-esteem and promote well-being.

Earnshaw, V. A., Eaton, L. A., Collier, Z. K., Watson, R. J., Maksut, J. L., Rucinski, K. B., Kelly, J. F., et al. (2020). HIV stigma, depressive symptoms, and substance use. AIDS Patient Care and STDs , 34 (6), 275. 280Abstract

Substance use problems undermine HIV treatment and secondary prevention efforts. Research is needed to better understand predictors of substance use among people living with HIV (PLWH). We examined whether internalized stigma and enacted HIV stigma are associated with three indicators of substance use among PLWH, including numbers of (1) substances used, (2) substances used at moderate to high risk, and (3) times substances were used before sex, through the mediator of depressive symptoms. Participants included 358 PLWH aged 18-35 years from Georgia, United States. At baseline, participants completed measures of internalized and enacted stigma, depressive symptoms, and substance use severity. Substance use was additionally tested with urinalysis. Following baseline, participants reported their use of substances before sex for 28 days through daily text messaging. Data were analyzed using path analysis in R. On average, participants tested positive for 1.24 (range: 0-6) substances used, reported moderate to high risk on 2.01 (range: 0-8) substances, and reported using substances 1.57 (range: 0-20) times before sex over 28 days. Internalized stigma and enacted stigma were associated with greater depressive symptoms, and depressive symptoms were associated with all three indicators of substance use. Moreover, the indirect effects between internalized and enacted stigma with indicators of substance use were significant, suggesting that depressive symptoms partially mediated associations between stigma and substance use. Interventions may be needed to address both stigma and depressive symptoms among PLWH to reduce substance use and support HIV treatment and prevention efforts.

Brousseau, N., Earnshaw, V., Levy, S., Menino, D., Bogart, L., Carrano, J. L., Kelly, J. F., et al. (2020). Self-perceptions and benefit finding among adolescents with substance use disorders and their caregivers: A qualitative analysis guided by social identity theory of cessation maintenance. Journal of Drug Issues , 50 (4), 410-423. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Substance use disorders (SUDs) among young people have been linked with a range of adverse health consequences that can be successfully mitigated with early SUD treatment. According to the Social Identity Theory of Cessation Maintenance (SITCM), psychosocial processes including self-perceptions and benefit finding evolve with treatment, influencing recovery-based identities that can facilitate treatment success. However, this process has only been documented with adults; thus, the current study seeks to characterize these psychosocial processes among young people in SUD treatment and their caregivers. Nineteen young people receiving SUD treatment and 15 caregivers were interviewed about treatment experiences including negative self-perceptions, positive self-perceptions, and benefit finding. Results support the SITCM: Adolescents described escaping negative self-perceptions associated with the “substance use self” identity and strengthening a new “recovery self” identity characterized by positive self-perceptions and benefit finding. Caregivers described how extrinsic sources of support can help mitigate negative self-perceptions.

Bergman, B. G., Ashford, R. D., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Attitudes toward opioid use disorder medications: Results from a U.S. national study of individuals who resolved a substance use problem. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology , 28 (4), 449-461. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The attitudes of individuals who receive, provide, or influence opioid use disorder (OUD) medication services, also called stakeholders, may enhance or hinder their dissemination and adoption. Individuals who have resolved a significant alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem are a group of key stakeholders whose OUD medication attitudes are not well understood empirically. This group subsumes, but is not limited to, individuals who identify as being "in recovery." Analyses leveraged the National Recovery Study, a geo-demographically representative survey of U.S. adults who resolved a significant AOD problem (N = 1,946). We examined the prevalence of positive, neutral, and negative attitudes toward agonists, such as buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone, and antagonists, such as oral and extended-release depot injection naltrexone. Single-predictor logistic regression models tested for demographic, clinical, and recovery-related correlates of these attitudes and, for those significant at the .1 level, multivariable-predictor logistic regression models tested unique associations between these correlates and attitudes. Results showed that participants were equally likely to hold positive (21.4 [18.9-24.0]%) and negative agonist (23.8 [21.2-26.7]%) attitudes but significantly more likely to hold negative (30.3 [27.4-33.3]%) than positive antagonist attitudes (18.0 [15.9-20.4]%). Neutral attitudeswere most commonly endorsed for both agonists (54.8 [51.6-57.9]%) and antagonists (51.7 [48.5-54.8]%). For agonists, more recent AOD problem resolution was a unique predictor of positive attitude, whereas Black and Hispanic races/ethnicities, compared with White, were unique predictors of negative attitude. For antagonists, older age group (45-59 and 60 + vs. 18-29 years), lifetime opioidantagonist medication prescription, and past 90-day non-12-step mutual-help attendance were unique predictors of positive attitude, whereas greater spirituality was a unique predictor of negative attitude. This population-level study of U.S. adults who resolved an AOD problem showed that agonist attitudes may be more positive than anecdotal evidence suggests. Certain characteristics and experiences, however, highlight a greater likelihood of negative attitudes, suggesting these factors may be potential barriers to OUD medication adoption.
Vilsaint, C. V., Hoffman, L. A., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Perceived discrimination in addiction recovery: Assessing the prevalence, nature, and correlates using a novel measure in a U.S. national sample. Drug and Alcohol Dependence , 206, 107667. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems are among the most stigmatized conditions globally diminishing help-seeking due to fear of discrimination. Discrimination is common also among people already in AOD recovery, but little is known about the prevalence and nature of perceived discrimination. Greater knowledge would inform treatment and policy.


Nationally representative cross-sectional sample of U.S. adults who reported resolving an AOD problem (final weighted sample n = 2002). Participants were asked, "Since resolving your problem with alcohol or drugs, how frequently have the following occurred because someone knew about your alcohol or drug history?".


Item response models yielded two types of discrimination: 1. Micro discrimination (personal slights) 2. Macro discrimination (violations of personal rights); psychological distress, quality of life, and recovery capital.


About one quarter of participants reported some type of micro discrimination (e.g., held to a higher standard) with slightly less reporting a violation of personal rights (e.g., couldn't get a job). After adjusting for addiction severity and years since problem resolution, greater micro and macro discrimination were associated with higher psychological distress (β = .45, 95% CI = .35,.55 and β = .59, 95% CI = .45,.73), lower quality of life (β =-.41, 95% CI=-.57,-.26 and β =-.49, 95% CI=-.76,-.21) and recovery capital (β =-.33, 95% CI=-.54,-.12 and β =-.68, 95% CI=-.97,-.40) respectively.


Despite being in recovery, different types of discrimination are experienced. These are associated with increased distress, and lower quality of life and recovery capital. Prospective studies are needed to help clarify the exact nature and impact of such discrimination on AOD problem recurrence.

Kelly, J. F., Fallah-Sohy, N., Vilsaint, C., Hoffman, L., Stout, R., Jason, L., Cristello, J., et al. (2020). New kid on the block: An investigation of the physical, operational, personnel, and service characteristics of recovery community centers in the United States. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment , 111, 1-10. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Professional treatment and non-professional mutual-help organizations (MHOs) play important roles in mitigating addiction relapse risk. More recently, a third tier of recovery support services has emerged that are neither treatment nor MHO that encompass an all-inclusive flexible approach combining professionals and volunteers. The most prominent of these is RecoveryCommunity Centers (RCCs). RCC's goal is to provide an attractive central recovery hub facilitating the accrual of recovery capital by providing a variety of services (e.g., recovery coaching; medication assisted treatment [MAT] support, employment/educational linkages). Despite their growth, little is known formally about their structure and function. Greater knowledge would inform the field about their potential clinical and public health utility.


On-site visits (2015-2016) to RCCs across the northeastern U.S. (K = 32) with semi-structured interviews conducted with RCC directors and online surveys with staff assessing RCCs': physicality and locality; operations and budgets; leadership and staffing; membership; and services.


Physicality and locality: RCCs were mostly in urban/suburban locations (90%) with very good to excellent Walk Scores reflecting easy accessibility. Ratings of environmental quality indicated neighborhood/grounds/buildings were moderate-good attractiveness and quality. Operations: RCCs had been operating for an average of 8.5 years (SD = 6.2; range 1-33 years) with budgets (mostly state-funded) ranging from $17,000-$760,000/year, serving anywhere from a dozen to more than two thousand visitors/month. Leadership and staffing: Center directors were mostly female (55%) with primary drug histories of alcohol (62%), cocaine (19%), or opioids (19%). Most, but not all, directors (90%) and staff (84%) were in recovery. Membership: A large proportion of RCC visitors were male (61%), White (72%), unemployed (50%), criminal-justice system-involved (43%) and reported opioids (35%) or alcohol (33%) as their primary substance. Roughly half were in their first year of recovery (49%), but about 20% had five or more years. Services: RCCs reported a range of services including social/recreational (100%), mutual-help (91%), recovery coaching (77%), and employment (83%) and education (63%) assistance. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) support (43%) and overdose reversal training (57%) were less frequently offered, despite being rated as highly important by staff.


RCCs are easily accessible, attractive, mostly state-funded, recovery support hubs providing an array of services to individuals in various recovery stages. They appear to play a valued role in facilitating the accrual of social, employment, housing, and other recovery capital. Research is needed to understand the relative lack of opioid-specific support and to determine their broader impact in initiating and sustaining remission and cost-effectiveness.

Gray, R., Kelly, P., Beck, A. K., Baker, A., Deane, F., Neale, J., Treloar, C., et al. (2020). A qualitative exploration of SMART Recovery meetings in Australia and the role of a digital platform to support routine outcome monitoring. Addictive Behaviors , 101, 106144. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Previous research has reported on the benefits of mutual support groups. However, such groups do not routinely collect data on participant outcomes. Moreover, the effect of collecting outcomes measures on these groups is unknown. The objective of this mixed methods study was to elicit participant views on using a novel, purpose built digital platform for routine outcome monitoring (ROM) as a standard component of a mutual support group. SMART Recovery, or the Self-Management and Recovery Training program, is group-based and uses professional clinicians to facilitate discussion and foster mutual support for a range of addictive behaviours, alongside Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Motivational Interviewing techniques. This paper reports on the qualitative component of this study and how participants perceive ROMs, and the potential shift to technological resources. Twenty semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with participants from SMART Recovery groups across New South Wales, Australia. Participants discussed their use of mutual support within group meetings to manage their recovery, including: naming their goals in front of peers; learning from clinicians and group discussion; and developing reciprocal and caring relationships. They also described any previous experience with routine outcomes measures and how digital technologies might enhance or hinder group function. Participants valued mutual support groups and reported that digital technologies could be complementary to physical, weekly group meetings. They were also concerned that the introduction of technological resources might pose a threat to physical meetings, thereby risking their access to mutual support. Findings have implications for the implementation of ROM when delivered via digitalmechanisms, and indicate threats and opportunities that warrant consideration for future initiatives.
Marcovitz, D. E., McHugh, R. K., Roos, C., West, J. J., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Overlapping mechanisms of recovery between professional psychotherapies and Alcoholics Anonymous. Journal of Addiction Medicine , 14 (5), 367-375. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Much research over the past 25 years has focused on elucidating the mechanisms by which Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) affects behavioral change in its participants. In addition to research on the spiritual mechanisms for which AA is best known in the popular conception, research on mechanisms of recovery (MOR) has predominantly supported social, cognitive, and affective mechanisms that are also present in many professional psychotherapies.


This paper compares and contrasts the theorized MOR of AA with those found in several common professional psychotherapies to illustrate analogous elements.


Literature review, summary, and synthesis of studies examining the MOR of both AA and common psychotherapies including analytic/dynamic therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapies, and acceptance and mindfulness-based therapies.


There exists a significant overlap in theorized MOR of AA and mainstream, professional psychotherapies. Mechanisms with the greatest overlap include those mobilizing stress and coping theory, behavioral choice theory, and social learning theory, while mechanisms more unique to AA compared to professional psychotherapies mobilize social control theory to a greater degree.


In caring for patients with addiction, practicing clinicians will find it useful to be aware of overlapping analogous elements found in the AA program and professional psychotherapies and how they can complement one another.