In a new study, researchers used data from Project MATCH to illuminate the specific effects of AA attendance:
Overall results indicated that greater participation in AA during the first three months of the study period was independently associated with more successful recovery over the following year. Of the behavioral changes associated with AA attendance, changes in social networks – more contacts with people who supported abstinence and fewer with those would encourage drinking – and greater confidence in the ability to maintain sobriety in social situations were most strongly connected with recovery success. Reduced depression and increased spirituality or religious practices also had a significant independent role in the recovery of participants whose had received inpatient treatment and probably had been more seriously dependent on alcohol.
“Our findings are shedding light on how AA helps people recover from addiction over time,” says Kelly. “The results suggest that social context factors are key; the people who associate with individuals attempting to begin recovery can be crucial to their likelihood of success. AA appears adept at facilitating and supporting those social changes. Further questions we need to investigate are whether particular groups of individuals – women or men, young or old people, those with or without accompanying psychiatric disorders – benefit from AA in the same or in different ways.”