AA: Attend Early and Often

Participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) concurrent with professional treatment appears to improve alcohol outcomes in people with alcohol use disorders. Whether AA alone or the timing of participation (e.g., before or after entering treatment) affects these outcomes is unclear.

In this study, researchers assessed remission (no heavy drinking or related problems in the past 6 months) in 362 people with an alcohol use disorder who entered treatment (inpatient or outpatient), AA, or both in the year after they sought help. Subjects were surveyed at baseline and 4 subsequent times over 16 years.

• Remission was more common in people who had participated in both treatment and AA (e.g., 65 percent at 16 years) followed by AA only (57 percent) and treatment only (50 percent). Differences were significant between the two treatment groups (for 3 of 4 time points).

• Remission did not significantly differ between people in treatment only and those who initially received treatment but later entered AA.

• As duration of AA participation increased, the likelihood of remission significantly increased.

Comments Rosanne Guerriero, MPH Richard Saitz, MD, MPH: This study supports the notion that long-term participation in AA, particularly when begun soon after seeking help, is an important adjunct to professional treatment for alcohol use disorders. Treatment of alcohol dependence should include referral to mutual help groups and encouragement for patients to continue their participation.

Source: Moos RH, Moos BS. Paths of entry into Alcoholics Anonymous: consequences for participation and remission. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005;29(10):1858-1868.

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