Disclosure processes as predictors of relationship outcomes among people in recovery from opioid use disorder: A longitudinal analysis

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Nov 1;228:109093. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.109093. Epub 2021 Sep 30.


Background: Personal disclosure of opioid use disorder (OUD) recovery can lead to relationship outcomes such as social support, which is associated with greater treatment retention, or stigma, which is associated with risk of treatment dropout. Although disclosure may have important impacts on the relationships and ensuing recovery trajectories of people with OUD, disclosure processes remain understudied in the context of OUD.

Methods: Guided by the Disclosure Process Model, this longitudinal study explored the disclosure goals of people in treatment for OUD and examined associations between disclosure goals and relationship outcomes. Data were collected at baseline (N = 146) and three months later (n = 124) from participants who were in treatment for OUD and planning to disclose their OUD history and/or treatment to someone new.

Results: Qualitative baseline data were analyzed to identify disclosure goals. Approach goals (i.e., reasons for disclosure) included support, honesty, amends, set an example, and logistics; avoidance goals (i.e., reasons against disclosure) included judgment, worry, and privacy. Quantitative data suggested that approach goals at baseline were associated with greater likelihood of disclosure within three months (OR=2.16, 95% CI=1.04-4.49) as well as with greater social support [B(SE)= 0.35(0.16), p = 0.03] and relationship closeness [B(SE)= 0.29(0.17), p = 0.01] following disclosures. In contrast, avoidance goals at baseline were associated with greater enacted stigma following disclosures [B(SE)= 0.30(0.14), p = 0.04].

Conclusions: Findings draw attention to the potentially important role of disclosures in relationship outcomes among people in recovery from OUD. Disclosure may represent a promising intervention target to improve relationship outcomes and recovery trajectories of people in recovery from OUD.

Keywords: Disclosure; Opioid use disorder; Social support; Stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Disclosure*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Social Stigma