In addiction treatment, study after study has shown a link between attending mutual aid and better outcomes for substance user disorders. These better outcomes include abstinence and there is consistent evidence of health cost savings.
In Scotland we are fortunate to have around 1000 mutual aid meetings running weekly in our cities, towns and villages. And there is choice – Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and SMART Recovery meetings are plentiful.
AA or NA?
In a new study US researchers took a look at 279 young adults going through residential treatment and asked ‘Do drug dependent patients attending Alcoholics Anonymous rather than Narcotics Anonymous do as well?’
The authors set the scene:
Although there is substantial overlap in the substance-specific co-morbidities of both organizational memberships (i.e. a large proportion of AA members have other drug problems, and NA members, alcohol problems), in keeping with their names and original raison d’etre, there is a relative emphasis on recovery from specific substances, particularly in AA, regarding alcohol (AA’ s ‘singleness of purpose’).
So with this in mind what was the outcome of the study? What they found was that primary drug users attended AA more in early recovery, post-treatment, but that this didn’t stop them continuing in a 12-step programme and they got the same kind of gains with regards to abstinence as those who went to NA.
In the authors’ words:
We did not find evidence that a greater match between individuals’ primary substance and fellowship bears any influence on future 12-step participation or abstinence. Findings suggest, that contrary to expectation, young adults who identify cannabis, opiates or stimulants as their preferred substance may, in general, do as well in AA as NA. This has significance in many communities where NA meetings may be less available or unavailable.
Do Drug-Dependent Patients Attending Alcoholics Anonymous Rather than Narcotics Anonymous Do As Well? A Prospective, Lagged, Matching Analysis John F. Kelly*, M. Claire Greene and Brandon G. Bergman, Alcohol and Alcoholism pp. 1–9, 2014