Renaissance Ranch

Holding On Tight to Recovery: Why Continued Peer Support Matters

Jun 1, 2023

Sustained drug or alcohol abuse recovery can sometimes feel incredibly elusive, even after completing lengthy treatment at a high-quality addiction recovery center. Unfortunately, many studies show that relapse rates hover around 50% after 4 to 12 weeks or more of intensive inpatient care. While that’s a pretty bleak statistic, however, it’s by no means the end of the story.

Year after year, more people with SUD (substance use disorder) are taking advantage of peer support resources – including Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous groups and treatment alumni associations – to maintain sobriety during and after formal treatment. And the results are impressive.

Across the nation, patients who have undergone treatment in substance abuse facilities with thriving alumni programs report lower relapse rates and higher quality of life after graduating from care. In addition, alumni programs provide a wealth of referrals for potential new patients, radically expanding a drug or alcohol rehab’s outreach to people with SUD in the community.

Holding On Tight to Recovery: Why Continued Peer Support Matters


Driving Down Relapse Rates

In one study, researchers selected a small group of people with SUD who resided in a sober living facility and invited them to participate in a 9-month peer support community (PSC) program. All participants had previously completed residential treatment programs for substance abuse and were sober for at least three months before starting the PSC.

The subjects were tested for substance use the year prior and the year immediately following their start in the program. The drug and alcohol use relapse rate before going into the PSC was 24%. After being in the community for a year, that rate fell to 7%. Likewise, those at high risk for relapsing into homelessness before the program was 85%. After the program, only 33% of residents were again homeless.

One of the main takeaways of this project was the realization that residential treatment and living in a sober facility still weren’t enough to induce significant long-term recovery improvement. The real success came when PSC participants actively engaged with group therapists and each other in bi-weekly meetings, social events, and other mutually supportive activities – basically, everything you do in a treatment alumni group.

Another study of Alcoholics Anonymous programs showed that those involved in the 12-Step program reported almost double the rate of abstinence after a year than other substance abusers who were not (~50% compared to 20%-25%).

In a smaller study sample, roughly 70% of AA participants who attended meetings weekly for the six months before a 2-year follow-up reported being abstinent. On the flip side, the abstinence rate for those attending less frequently during the same period was about the same as for those who didn’t attend at all, once again showing that active participation is crucial for prolonged sobriety.

Boosting Connection, Referrals

Recent reports also indicate that maintaining a strong alumni program can bolster connections between former patients and increase treatment referrals. “We had 28% of our intakes from 2022 that were attributed to alumni referrals,” said Preston Dixon, COO at Renaissance Ranch, a residential men’s treatment program in Utah and Idaho. “And we’re not the only ones experiencing greater outreach because of our alums,” he continued. “Many addiction recovery centers are investing in continued care resources and are seeing a rising percentage of new admissions from alumni referrals.”

According to internal client surveys, ContinuumCloud reports that most treatment programs they work with expect 25% to 30% of their admissions will come through alumni referrals. And some programs show referral rates as high as 50%. ContinuumCloud is a cloud-based software solution provider that supports the behavioral health and human services industry.

“A patient who has successfully graduated from any of our formal treatment programs is our best referral source,” added Dixon. “By continuing to nurture that person through a comprehensive aftercare program, we help them stay on the recovery path, and they become a powerful advocate for the services we provide.”

Investing in Tech to Expand Alumni Reach

Modern technology is essential to alumni program success, as evidenced by the rising number of drug and alcohol rehabs investing in online platforms, data collection tools, and mobile applications to facilitate communication, connection, and post-treatment customization. Recent examples include the Renaissance Ranch treatment support app and Sierra Tucson’s Connect365 program app.

The Ranch and Tucson’s Connect365 apps allow for open and continuous engagement with peers and recovery coaches, daily and weekly check-in monitoring, and keeping former patients up-to-date on social and educational opportunities and events. The Ranch app also offers suggested reading and meditation exercises, assistance finding or becoming a sponsor, and access to clinical recovery tools. Finally, peers can participate in private and group chats through the application, helping them draw strength and inspiration from each other in real time.

Investing in an alumni app makes good financial sense for substance abuse facilities, too. For example, let’s assume a private provider charges $10,000 for a 30-day residential treatment program. Suppose that center has 100 alums annually, and a strong alumni program can increase revenue by around 25%. That will generate an additional $260,000 a year that can go toward anything from investing in new tech to offering more treatment scholarships. And if an alumni app averages around $15,000, it will pay for itself in less than two months.

To learn more about our treatment aftercare and alumni programs, please call us at 855-736-7262.