In an ongoing quest to find the secret to happiness, scientists have come back to the same answer time and again: relationships with other people. In a 2012 Australian study, researchers found that the quality of a child’s relationships with family and friends has a greater effect on their happiness as adults than intelligence, wealth or academic success. The U.K.’s National Child Development Study showed that middle-age adults who regularly meet up with 10 or more friends have better mental health than those with five or fewer friends.
Given the connection between social ties and mental health, it comes as no surprise that people who feel socially isolated are more likely to struggle with substance abuse. New research shows the reverse is also true: Drug abuse may be the cause, not just an effect, of social isolation. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, teens who drink are more likely to feel like social outcasts than students who avoid alcohol.
Thus, an important part of addiction recovery is restoring close ties with other people. After bidding farewell to their drug-abusing associates as well as many of the healthy relationships they once had, most addicts in early recovery are faced with building a social network from the ground up.