Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work

The Landing is a huge advocate for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). All of our clients learn how to make regular meetings apart of their routines. Making us quite interested in the recent studies analyzing the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous. For years statistics about the group’s success rates are contradictory.

First of all, accurate reports about the success rates of 12-step programs like AA are notoriously difficult to obtain. The few studies that have attempted to measure the effectiveness of the program have often been contradictory. Fiercely protective of their anonymity, AA forbids researchers from conducting clinical studies of its millions of members. But the organization does conduct its own random surveys every three years. The result of AA’s most recent study in 2007 were very promising. According to AA, 33 percent of the 8,000 North American members it surveyed had remained sober for over 10 years. Twelve percent were sober for 5 to 10 years; 24 percent were sober 1 to 5 years; and 31 percent were sober for less than a year.

The study didn’t disclose how long each person interviewed had been working the rooms, working with a sponsor and attending meetings to achieve sobriety. It also revealed little about the percentage of people who attended AA, relapsed, and left the program. A 1990 summary of five different membership surveys (from 1977 through 1989) reported that 81 percent of alcoholics who engaged in the program stopped attending within a year. And only 5% of the AA attendees surveyed had been attending meetings for more than a a year.

One report found AA and cognitive behavioral therapy to be equally effective, statistically speaking. “It was the initial decision to get better that determined a person’s chances of succeeding,” an expert says. “What followed made little difference. Although AA doubtless helps some people, it is not magic.”

“When you look at people just taking themselves to a meeting, long-term abstinence is pretty low,” admits Dr. David Sack, an addiction psychiatrist and the chief executive of Promises Treatment Centers. “But the fact is it works well for the people who work it.”

The Landing believes strongly in the 12 Steps as a method for helping reshape an addicts behaviors, values and habits. We encourage all of our client to work the steps because “working it” is what leads to long term recovery. There is no magic drug, rehab or therapist, ultimately recovery is in the hands of the individual addict. Which makes our job equally as challenging as rewarding.