There are groups against Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous works concept

The way out of addiction is difficult for alcoholics - many struggle against drinking all their lives. For this reason, researchers have now examined how effective various methods are on the path to abstinence as part of a Cochrane meta-study. The focus was on the question of how well the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) concept compares with traditional forms of therapy. The study found: The Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step Program and its system of support groups help more participants to achieve sustained abstinence than other forms of therapy, and with regard to other parameters it is at least as good.

Alcoholics Anonymous originated in the US city of Akron in 1935. At that time, two men were looking for the best way to overcome their alcohol addiction and founded the first self-help group. In the course of time, the concept of regular meetings led and organized by laypeople and the program of the twelve steps developed from this. At the beginning there is the realization that one can no longer control one's drinking alone, the admission of one's addiction to others and the willingness to change behavior that promotes addiction. Another part of the program is the supervision of new participants by sponsors who have been dry for a long time. There are now more than 118,000 AA groups worldwide with a combined total of more than two million members.

A comparison of therapies

However, Alcoholics Anonymous is not without controversy because of their partly religious traits and the groups led by lay people. Psychologists and addiction therapists in particular often doubt that this method works better than targeted behavioral or motivational therapy, as confirmed by lead author Keith Humphreys of the Stanford School of Medicine: "I thought, how dare these people just do the things for which I have all these degrees, ”says the researcher. To answer the question of how well Alcoholics Anonymous actually help their participants, he and his colleagues have now carried out a comparative analysis. To do this, they evaluated the data from 27 studies with a total of 10,565 participants and compared AA and twelve-step programs with classic clinical forms of therapy. They determined whether and how much the participants reduced their level of drinking, how long they remained abstinent and what effect this had on their state of health.

The evaluations showed: Alcoholics who tried to get dry with the help of AA had an at least as good, and often even better, chance of success. If the AA groups strictly followed the rules of the twelve-point program, the chance of success was even significantly higher: 42 percent of the AA participants were dry even one year after the start of therapy, compared with classic methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy only 35 percent. Most of the AA participants were also abstinent 24 and 36 months after starting therapy, as the researchers report. In the alcoholics who did not manage to completely abstain, at least the intensity of drinking fell just as much as in the case of classical therapies. In terms of addiction symptoms and health status, the results for AA were just as good as those of the other methods.

"It works!"

"There is good quality evidence that Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve-Step Interventions are more effective than other established treatments for sustained abstinence," state Humphreys and colleagues. Because in the studies, these results could be demonstrated for people in five different countries and from very different age groups and social backgrounds. The principle of regular group meetings and close support, even over a long period of time, seems to be the best long-term help against addiction. Humphreys therefore believes it makes perfect sense for psychologists and medical professionals to encourage their patients to join an AA group after participating in shorter-term therapies. “It obviously works,” says the researcher.

And the meta-study found something else: "With regard to health costs, it should interest policymakers that four of the five relevant studies we identified showed significant cost savings for AA and associated twelve-step clinical programs to increase the participation of AA" reports John Kelly from Harvard Medical School. "This suggests that these programs could significantly reduce health system costs."

Source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, doi: 10.1002 / 14651858.CD012880.pub2

March 11, 2020

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