People with substance use disorders are seven times more likely to experience loneliness than the general population.
New research from Dr Isabella Ingram examines the relationship between loneliness, social isolation and substance use disorders and how intervention can promote a sense of belonging.
“Substance use disorder is a significant chronic health condition, which is often characterised by a cycle of relapsing and remitting. Loneliness is often part of this cycle," Dr Ingram says.
“People with substance use disorders can face unique barriers to connecting with others, such as stigma, fear of being negatively viewed by others, and difficulty trusting others. We know that meaningful connections provide the necessary support and encouragement that individuals need to be successful in engaging in treatment.”
"Our research, driven by consultations with people with lived experience, aims to improve the way our alcohol and other drug treatment services address loneliness and promote a sense of belonging.”
Dr Ingram’s research has found that loneliness is associated with poorer physical and mental health, and more frequent and severe substance use for people who misuse alcohol and other drugs.
Together with colleagues from University of Queensland, and the University of Wollongong, Dr Ingram has developed a targeted intervention to address loneliness for people who misuse alcohol and other drugs.
“The intervention, called Groups for Belonging, is a group-based program designed to address loneliness and promote social group support within the context of substance use.”
The project team have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct a randomised controlled trial to examine the effectiveness of the program.
“The trial is due to commence at the end of 2023 and, if effective, our intention is for Groups for Belonging to be incorporated across Australian substance use treatment settings.”