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The Science Is In: AA Works

Alcoholics Anonymous works better than professional therapy, in fact
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2020 6:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – An extensive new study confirms that Alcoholics Anonymous works. In fact, AA not only helps alcoholics get sober, the free program was found to be more effective than professional mental health therapy in terms of participants staying sober. The research, a review of dozens of studies involving more than 10,500 people carried out by the Cochrane Collaboration, found that AA was never determined to be less effective than alternative options, and was often found to be significantly better (up to 60%) than those other interventions. "In the popular press, there’s been reports of AA not working or being even harmful for people," says the lead author, per USA Today. "So, we wanted to clarify the scientific picture to the highest scientific standard." AA was found to have increased rates and lengths of sobriety compared to other treatments; a press release deems it "the most effective path to abstinence."

Specifically, while other treatments generally result in 15% to 25% of participants sustaining abstinence, AA's rates were between 22% and 37%. A 2006 Cochrane Collaboration review involving fewer studies and fewer people found there was not enough evidence to judge AA's effectiveness, the New York Times reports. But a study co-author, a psychologist who was once skeptical of the amateur nature of AA himself, says the results of this updated review, which comes after a significant number of additional high-quality studies have been done on the subject, make sense: "AA didn’t come from the scientific community, it came from people who were suffering addiction. They’re just people with lived experience, and that’s powerful when you multiply that by a couple of million people." The research also found AA typically lowered health care costs, and could save health care providers $10 billion a year. (Read more Alcoholics Anonymous stories.)

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