AA Attendance Cuts Drinking and Depression, Study Finds

People who attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings drank less — and less frequently — than those who did not attend AA, and also were less depressed, according to research based on the federal Project MATCH treatment study.

The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 28 that a study on AA’s impact on drinking and depression, conducted by John F. Kelly of Harvard Medical School and colleagues, also found that AA participants who attended more meetings also drank less.

Abstinent AA attendees had fewer symptoms of depression than the general population, but those who continued to drink did not, the study found.

“Some critics of AA have claimed that the organization’s emphasis on ’powerlessness’ against alcohol use and the need to work on ’character defects’ cultivates a pessimistic world view, but this suggests the opposite is true,” said Kelly. “AA is a complex social organization with many mechanisms of action that probably differ for different people and change over time. Most treatment programs refer patients to AA or similar 12-step groups, and now clinicians can tell patients that, along with supporting abstinence, attending meetings can help improve their mood. Who wouldn’t want that?”

The study was published online in the journal Addiction.

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