AA And NA Help Teens
Tags: 12-step model abstinence Alcoholics Anonymous narcotics anonymous outcomes relapse
Despite the widespread use of 12-Step approaches and numerous referrals to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) by youth-service providers, there is little “hard scientific evidence” showing that these groups can improve outcomes among youth who are in recovery. Part of the issue is that mutual-help organizations like AA and NA are community organizations based on anonymity, and cannot be directly controlled by researchers. This study examined how helpful AA and NA may be for adolescents in their transition to young adulthood who were initially enrolled in treatment that was based on a 12-Step model.
Researchers recruited 160 adolescent inpatients (96 males, 64 females) with an average age of 16 years. All of the adolescents were enrolled at two treatment centers in California that had a focus on abstinence and were based on a 12-Step model. The study participants’ length of stay ranged from four to six weeks, after which they were re-assessed on a number of clinical variables at six months, and then one, two, four, six, and eight years following treatment.
Results indicated many youth initially attended AA/NA meetings intensively, but during the eight-year period following treatment, their attendance declined sharply and steadily. Those patients with severe addiction problems, and those who believed they could not use alcohol/drugs in moderation, attended the most meetings. Despite the decline in attendance, greater early participation was associated with better long-term outcomes. On average, each AA/NA meeting attended was associated with two days of subsequent abstinence. The study authors recommend AA and NA as a “buffer” against relapse during this particularly high risk developmental period into young adulthood, and especially among those youth who have more severe substance-use issues.
(Kelly, JF, Brown, SA, Abrantes, A, Kahler, CW, Myers, M: Social recovery model: An 8-year investigation of adolescent 12-step group involvement following inpatient treatment. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 32:1468-78, 2008.)