AA Attendance and Abstinence

While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a preferred form of aftercare for patients “completing” formal treatment programs, little is known about AA involvement and its effects on abstinence over time. In this study, researchers assessed participation in AA, abstinence, and other alcohol outcomes over 5 years among 349 patients who entered treatment at baseline and attended AA at least once during follow-up.

• Four patterns of AA attendance emerged: low (mainly during the year following treatment entry); medium (about 60 meetings per year with a slight increase by year 5); high (over 200 meetings per year with a slight decrease by year 5); and declining (almost 200 meetings the year following treatment entry and about 6 meetings in year 5).

• Abstinence (past 30 days) in year 5 significantly differed across groups: 79% of patients with high attendance reported abstinence, followed by 73 % with medium attendance, 61% with declining attendance, and 43% with low attendance.

• Patients with medium or high attendance had the largest social networks of people who supported patient abstinence or decreased alcohol use.

• Patients across the groups had similar numbers of dependence symptoms and social consequences of drinking.

Comments by Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH:

Patients who attend AA after treatment can be characterized as those who never connect, those who connect briefly, and those who maintain stable (and sometimes quite high) attendance. Even those who connect for a short while appear to benefit years later, though higher attendance was associated with a greater likelihood of long-term abstinence. Providers should reinforce AA attendance as part of a comprehensive effort to improve long-term abstinence.

Source: Kaskutas LA, Ammon L, Delucchi K, et al. Alcoholics Anonymous careers: patterns of AA involvement five years after treatment entry. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005:29(11);1983–1990.

Reprinted with permission from Alcohol and Health: Current Evidence. March 10, 2006

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