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J Psychoactive Drugs. 2014 Apr-Jun;46(2):93-105. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2014.890766.

Social support network characteristics of incarcerated women with co-occurring major depressive and substance use disorders.

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a Instructor, Department of Psychiatry , Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston , MA.


The nature of social support available to incarcerated women is not well-understood, particularly among women at high risk of negative outcomes, including women dually diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and a Substance Use Disorder (MDD-SUD). Descriptive statistics and paired-tests were conducted on 60 incarcerated MDD-SUD women receiving in-prison substance use and depression treatments to characterize the women's social networks, including the strength of support, network characteristics, and types of support provided as well as to determine what aspects of social support may be amenable to change during incarceration and post-release. Study results showed that, on average, women perceived they had moderately supportive individuals in their lives, although more than a quarter of the sample could not identify any regular supporters in their network at baseline. During incarceration, women's social networks significantly increased in general supportiveness, and decreased in network size and percentage of substance users in their networks. Participants maintained positive social support gains post-release in most areas while also significantly increasing the size of their support network post-release. Findings suggest that there are aspects of incarcerated MDD-SUD women's social networks that are amenable to change during incarceration and post-release and provide insight into treatment targets for this vulnerable population.


depression; dual diagnosis; incarcerated women; social support; substance use disorders; treatment

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