Young Adults Taking 12 Steps

Alcoholics and addicts in twelve step programs have better outcomes when they feel involved

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) It can be tough for young addicts to get involved in 12 step groups full of older folks. But if they do find a 12 step group where they can really engage, success rates are high.

A recent study followed young adults for a year after they left rehab. The study’s findings showed age can be a barrier to engaging in 12 step programs, but active participation provided the best results.

The researchers said, “Our study shows that 12 step community resources, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide local, accessible and cost-effective recovery resources for young adults during a stage in life when such support is rare.”

"Check online for local 12 step groups."

John F. Kelly, PhD, from the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, led researchers into investigations on 12 step programs for young adults.

Dr. Kelly said, “Very little is known about the effects of 12 step attendance and involvement on outcomes for young adults.”

For the study, 303 young adults aged 18-24 at a rehabilitation facility were evaluated at the time of discharge, 3, 6 and 12 months later.

  • At baseline, 36 percent attended 12 step meetings
  • At 3 months, 89 percent attended meetings
  • At 6 months, 82 percent attended meetings
  • At 12 months, 76 percent attended meetings

Researchers found the peak attendance to be three times per week around the 3-month mark, which lessened to once per week at the 12-month mark.

Authors noted that a lot of AA/NA programs are made up of mostly middle-aged attendees, which may make it difficult for young adults to engage, bond with others and maintain attendance.

Co-author, Valerie Slaymaker, PhD, from the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota, said, “Alcohol and drug use is high among young adults in general compared to other age groups.”

“Young people who are in early recovery from addiction face a tough time finding social support and supportive peer networks.”

Actively engaging in the meetings resulted in better abstinence rates for young adults.

AA/NA groups directed at younger age groups may have higher success rates by linking participants with like-minded peers.

This study was published in October in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

 No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 18, 2012
Last Updated:
November 26, 2012