Humphreys said, "Cochrane Reviews are the gold standard in medicine for the integration of all the research about a particular intervention. We wanted to do this work through Cochrane because of its rigor and reputation."
AA was found to be more effective in fulfilling all the objectives in almost all the studies, the team of researchers noted. It was pitched against psychotherapy, where it emerged as more beneficial in abstinence.
Results showed that AA was 60 percent more effective compared to other measures to help those with AUD abstain. None of the 35 studies reviewed showed any other method significantly better than AA. AA and 12-step facilitation counseling was also found to be immensely cost-saving, found the researchers. One of the studies said that mental health costs could be reduced by $10,000 per person with AA. Humphreys said that the efficacy of AA remained for all irrespective of their age and gender or if they were veterans or civilians. He said that this was proven in five countries and added, "It absolutely does work."
According to the researchers, the social interactions in AA work in its favour and that provides the necessary emotional support to those with AUD to abstain from drinking. Humphreys said, "If you want to change your behavior, find some other people who are trying to make the same change."
According to Humphreys, several professionals are skeptical about the effectiveness of AA in helping those with AUD abstain. He explained that many psychologists and psychiatrists using CBT or MET believe that their approach was better and more effective than peer operated AA groups. For this study, they looked at both AA and 12 step counseling, and he agreed that AA was more effective.
Dr. John Kelly, Elizabeth R. Spallin Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Recovery Research Institute, said, "Alcohol use disorder can be devastating for individuals and their families, and it presents a significant, worldwide, costly public health problem. Alcoholics Anonymous is a well-known, free, mutual-help fellowship that helps people recover and improve their quality of life. One important finding from this review was that it does matter what type of TSF intervention people receive - better organized and well-articulated clinical treatments have the best result. In other words, clinical programs and clinicians need to use one of the proven manualized programs to maximize the benefits from AA participation." Kelly added, "In terms of healthcare costs, policymakers will be interested that four of the five economics studies we identified showed considerable cost-saving benefits for AA and related 12-step clinical programs designed to increase AA participation, indicating these programs could reduce healthcare costs substantially."
Humphreys said that this study does not include the efficacy of other support groups for addictions such as Narcotics Anonymous. He said however, that this study is "certainly suggestive that these methods work for people who use heroin or cocaine." He concluded that this study validates the advice given to those with AUD to try AA for their condition, saying, "That was really good advice, and that continues to be good advice."
This study was supported by Stanford's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and was not funded. Journal reference:
Kelly JF, Humphreys K, Ferri M. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12‐step programs for alcohol use disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD012880. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012880.pub2. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012880.pub2/full
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