BACKGROUND: Addiction-focused mutual-help group participation is associated with better substance use disorder (SUD) treatment outcomes. However, little has been documented regarding which types of mutual-help organizations patients attend, what levels of participation may be beneficial, and which patients, in particular, are more or less likely to participate.
METHOD: Alcohol-dependent outpatients (N=227; 27% female; Mean age=42) enrolled in a telephone case monitoring trial were assessed at treatment intake and at 1, 2, and 3 years post discharge.
RESULTS: Mutual-help participation was associated with both
- greater abstinence and
- fewer drinks per drinking day and this relationship was not found to be influenced by gender, other mental health, religious preference, or prior mutual-help participation.
Mutual-help participants attended predominantly Alcoholics Anonymous and tended to be Caucasian, be more educated, have prior mutual-help experience, and have more severe alcohol involvement.
Analyses suggested that even small amounts of participation in AA may be helpful in increasing abstinence, whereas higher doses may be needed to reduce relapse intensity.
CONCLUSIONS: Use of mutual-help groups following intensive outpatient SUD treatment appears to be beneficial for many different types of patients and even modest levels of participation may be helpful.
Research by Kelly JF, Stout R, Zywiak W, Schneider R. A 3-year study of addiction mutual-help group participation following intensive outpatient treatment. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Aug;30(8):1381-92.