Teens in Treatment for Substance Abuse Can Benefit From 12-Step Programs

Teenagers in treatment for substance abuse can benefit from 12-step programs, a new study suggests.

Until now, little research has been done on how effective these programs are for adolescents, HealthDay reports.

The study included 127 teens who were outpatients in substance abuse treatment programs. They were assessed when they began the study, and again three, six and 12 months later. The researchers found about one-quarter to one-third of the teens attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings throughout the year-long study period, and that more meeting attendance was associated with significantly better substance use outcomes.

“Importantly, youth who also were in contact with an AA or NA sponsor or who participated verbally during AA/NA meetings had an even better outcome over and above the positive effects from merely attending,” researcher John F. Kelly of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital said in a news release. “These findings support the common clinical recommendation that individuals should ‘go to meetings, get a sponsor, and get active.’ This is the first evidence to support this common clinical recommendation among young people.”

Kelly said physicians, counselors and other health professionals can improve the odds that adolescents will attend and participate in AA/NA meetings by encouraging them to attend early in the course of their substance abuse treatment.

“It is also a good idea to facilitate a good match between the patient’s primary substance, cannabis/other drugs or alcohol, and the mutual-help organization to which they are being referred, Marijuana Anonymous, NA or AA. Not doing this can lead to a poor initial match, which can be difficult to overcome,” Kelly said.

He added that a key element to success is a good connection between the patient and an existing community AA or NA member. This person can make introductions, answer questions and act as a guide, he noted.

The findings are published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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    Joe Riley

    April 24, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    12 step programs is not the meetings. Lets be really clear about that. That is what is considered the fellowship (meetings).12 step programs are………. the 12 steps. They are a set of clear cut instructions that are action oriented, based by spiritual principles. Have you ever heard the question: “what is the definition of insanity?” Most people will say “It’s doing the same thing over & over again, expecting different results” I say horse radish !! I say insanity is “joing a 12 step fellowship but not working the 12 steps.” I mean, c’mon now. If you were to take outcomes of people who worked the 12 steps, i bet your outcomes would be even greater.

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    April 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Teens benefit most from counselors who understand the realities of harm reduction versus wasting time trying to sell teens the false hope of long term adolescent recovery.

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    Jim Dickey

    April 18, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    I would be interested in knowing two things: (I) How did the study differentiate between (1) individuals who were already motivated to stay clean and thus attended lots of meetings and (2) those who were not motivated, but attended lots of meetings anyway and because of this attendance had a better chance of staying clean and sober and (II) Did those who attended lots of other types of recovery groups such as SMART Recovery or LifeRing have just as good a chance of staying clean?

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