How AA and NA work

photo credit: Jeff Tabaco

Here is a summary of the knowledge presented at last year’s conference on AA and NA:

  • The preponderance of evidence supports the causal pathway that AA attendance leads to abstinence (Kaskutas, Zemore).
  • 12-Step affiliation significantly enhances the odds of sustaining abstinence for multiple years among polysubstance-dependent individuals (Laudet).
  • 12-Step involvement yields benefits above and beyond meeting attendance (Kaskutas, Zemore, Laudet)—and this is especially important for women (Laudet).
  • 12-Step attendance declines over time (Laudet, Kelly). Patterns of AA and NA attendance mirror patterns of treatment attendance with multiple stop-and-start episodes (Laudet).
  • A substantial minority of recovering substance abusers in the community do not participate in 12-Step programs (Laudet).
  • For adolescents, the relationship between AA meeting attendance and percent days abstinent increase in linear and positive direction at 6 months and 12 months posttreatment (Kelly).
  • A combination of treatment and AA is most effective (Kaskutas, Zemore).
  • Among adolescents, early posttreatment attendance, even in relatively small amounts, predicts long-term helpful outcomes. Consistent attendance over time predicts favorable outcomes (Kelly).
  • Three or more AA/NA meetings per week are optimal and associated with complete abstinence. However, even one or two meetings per week are associated with sharp increases in abstinence (Kelly, White).
  • Of 1.9 million people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, only 18% are alcohol only and only 36% are drug only (White).
  • Those who state AA is helpful have better drinking outcomes. Those who state AA is not helpful have poorer drinking outcomes (Robinson).
  • Addiction severity predicts participation in AA and NA among adults (Robinson) and adolescents (Kelly).
  • Individuals who benefit from AA identify the importance of being in a group of sober people, see AA as a source of support, benefit from others’ experiences, and search for AA meetings and members with whom they find compatibility (Robinson).

Not too shabby for an approach to problem drinking that has no evidence, huh?

2 thoughts on “How AA and NA work

  1. Well, if it hadn’t been for the fact that some of the top addiction researchers are behind this and the evidence is presented in a peer reviewed journal, you might have been accused (by mutual aid cynics) of flights of fantasy and wishful thinking, for the findings are amazing!

    Thanks for this summary. Now my goal is to get hold of the original journal articles.

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