Active Participation in AA Improves Long-Term Outcomes
Case Western Reserve in Psych Central Com
By Rick Nauert PhD, Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 7, 2012
A new study finds that active participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous program improves long-term recovery.
Researchers found that recovering alcoholics who helped others in the program had better outcomes in terms of time sober, consideration of others, and long-term meeting attendance.
These findings were from a 10-year, prospective investigation led by Maria Pagano, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the “Helping Others” study. Results of the study are published in the journal Substance Abuse.
Pagano and colleagues evaluated the decade-long treatment outcomes from a single site in Project MATCH, the largest multi-site randomized clinical trial on behavioral treatments of alcoholism sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This particular site included a large sample with high representation of Hispanic problem drinkers.
In the evaluation, researchers investigated the benefit or impact of program activities in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on long-term outcomes.
Results showed that participation in Alcoholics Anonymous-related Helping (AAH) produced lowered alcohol use and increased interest in others at each subsequent follow-up assessment.
“Our study is the first to explore the 10-year course of engagement in programmatic 12-step activities and their simultaneous influence on long-term outcomes,” Pagano said.
“The AAH findings suggest the importance of getting active in service, which can be in a committed 2-month AA service position or as simple as sharing one’s personal experience in recovery to another fellow sufferer.”
This study also found that alcoholics engaged in AAH did more step-work and attended more meetings than those not helping others. In effect, AAH strengthens the commitment to the program that many newcomers have difficulty with in the beginning.
“Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction,” Pagano said.
Pagano’s continued research in this area is exploring whether or not similar patterns emerge among minors in recovery.
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