“I don’t know what fun is”: examining the intersection of social capital, social networks, and social recovery

Miriam Boeri (Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Megan Gardner (Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Erin Gerken (Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Melissa Ross (Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Jack Wheeler (Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Publication date: 7 March 2016



The purpose of this paper is to understand how people with problematic drug use access positive social capital. Social capital is defined as relations that provide valuable resources to individuals through participation in social networks. People with low-socioeconomic status remain at a disadvantage for acquiring positive social capital, a component of recovery capital. The concept of social recovery emphasizes the relational processes of recovery.


In-depth life history data were collected from 29 individuals who used heroin, cocaine, crack, or methamphetamine for at least five years, have less than a high-school education, and unstable employment and housing. Qualitative data were coded for social networks accessed throughout the life course, distinguished by bonding, bridging, and linking social capital.


Social networks included drug treatment programs; non-drug-using family and friends; religious/spiritual groups; workplace networks; and social clubs/activities. Bonding and/or bridging social capital were acquired through treatment, family and friends, religious/spiritual groups, workplaces, and social clubs. Linking social capital was not acquired through any social network available, and many barriers to accessing mainstream social networks were found.

Research limitations/implications

This is a small study conducted in the USA.

Practical implications

Social recovery is proposed as an analytical tool as well as for developing prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies.

Social implications

A greater focus on social recovery is needed to achieve sustained recovery for individuals lacking access to, and engagement in mainstream social networks.


This paper further develops a new conceptual framework to use in recovery research and practice.



Boeri, M., Gardner, M., Gerken, E., Ross, M. and Wheeler, J. (2016), "“I don’t know what fun is”: examining the intersection of social capital, social networks, and social recovery", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 95-105. https://doi.org/10.1108/DAT-08-2015-0046

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