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New Data on Self-Help Groups

November 26, 2008
by Daniel Guarnera
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SAMHSA recently released a

new paper on the prevalence of self-help groups like

Alcoholics Anonymous and

Narcotics Anonymous. Their key findings include:

  • Five million people attended a self-help meeting for alcohol or other drug use last year (2% of the total American population over age 12).
  • About one-third of people who attended a self-help meeting also received some kind of specialized addiction treatment services in the past year.
  • 66 percent of attendees were male.
  • 68 percent had a family income under $50,000.
  • 68 percent were white.
  • 45 percent attended because of their alcohol use alone, 22 percent for their illegal drug use alone, and 33 percent for both alcohol and other drug use.
  • 45 percent of people who attended a self-help meeting had abstained from substance use in the month before a meeting, 55 percent had not been abstinent.
  • Of people who received specialized addiction treatment services, 76 percent of people who received treatment for both alcohol and illegal drug use attended a self-help meeting, compared to about 65percent of people who received treatment for either alcohol or illegal drug use.

AA was founded in 1935, and therefore predates almost every other treatment modality in use by so many decades that the research is still trying to get caught up. (The SAMHSA report cites the oft-quoted Moos & Moos research as evidence of the emerging consensus that self-help groups improve long-term substance use outcomes.) So it's always interesting to see new data and studies about self-help groups--we still have a lot to learn from them about how recovery and recovery support work in practice for millions of people.


Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...

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