A new study has shown that Alcoholics Anonymous is as effective as other treatments for people with alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder.
According to a report in the March 11 Cochrane Database of Systematic Review, researchers looked at AA and other 12-step programs and compared them to other behavior modification treatment programs. Researchers looked at how successful the programs were at reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining continuous abstinence, and reducing alcohol-related consequences.
The new comprehensive analysis evaluated 35 studies which examined the outcomes of 10,080 participants and used a variety of methods, including motivational enhancement therapy (MET) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, to measure AA’s effectiveness on AUD, including the length of time participants abstained from alcohol; the amount they reduced their drinking if they continued drinking; the consequences of their drinking; and health care costs. Across these measures, AA performed at least as well as other behavioral treatments, and AA was more effective in increasing abstinence.
“There is high-quality evidence that manualized Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step Facility (AA/TSF) interventions are more effective than other established treatments, such as CBT, for increasing abstinence,” the researchers concluded. “Non-manualized AA/TSF may perform as well as these other established treatments. AA/TSF interventions, both manualized and non-manualized, may be at least as effective as other treatments for other alcohol-related outcomes. AA/TSF probably produces substantial healthcare cost savings among people with alcohol use disorder.”
The study pointed out that symptoms and treatment can vary from person-to-person, and that more research was needed to determine who would most benefit from which treatment strategies.
But alcoholism experts say something is better than nothing.
“Fewer than 1 in 10 people with AUD receive any help in a given year,” said Dr. George F. Koob, director of the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “It’s important that clinicians and consumers make decisions about treatment for AUD based on scientific evidence, and this carefully conducted meta-analysis suggests that AA should be on the list of options to consider.”