Imbibers Keep On Fighting

Alcoholics recover better with support and confidence

(RxWiki News) Many alcoholics seeking abstinence and recovery go to Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a well known anti-alcohol program that helps individuals get clean, but how exactly does it work?

For a long time, many didn’t know the exact mechanism that helped alcoholics recover while they were in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but they knew that it worked. Researchers now shed light on two key factors that increase chance of recovering from alcohol addiction.

"Surround yourself with supportive people."

For the first time, John F. Kelly, Ph.D., associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Addiction Medicine, and colleagues determine the relative importance of different aspects in the AA program. Factors that have been identified to help in recovery are changes in social networks, maintaining motivation and confidence, decreased depression and increased spirituality.

The study included over 1,700 participants who were enrolled in nine U.S. centers as part of Project MATCH. Project MATCH is a federally funded experiment that compared three different alcohol treatment approaches.

There were follow-up sessions at three, nine and fifteen months after the completion of Project MATCH. Participants were asked to report on recent alcohol consumption, which included number of times and the intensity.

Follow-up sessions also asked for the number of AA meetings attended, spiritual or religious practices, level of depression and whether their social group supported their choice and their confidence in ability to stay away from alcohol in social situations.

The results indicated that participants who attended and participated in more AA meetings in the first three months had a more successful recovery over the following year. Two behavioral changes had high impact on success rates – support from others and confidence in oneself.

Individuals who associated themselves with other people who supported their choice of abstinence had higher success rates. Participants who were more confident in their ability to stay abstinent in social gatherings also had higher success in recovering.

More severe alcoholics benefited from increased religious or spiritual practices and decreased depression symptoms.

The observational study was published in the journal of Addiction on September 12, 2011.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2011