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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Meta-analysis supports AA as treatment for AUD

Research Update

Research Date

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is as effective as established behavioral treatments for some people with alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to an extensive review of NIAAA-supported research and other studies.  As reported March 11 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Review, researchers used a meta-analysis to show that AA and other 12-step facilitation interventions are effective in helping individuals with AUD reduce alcohol consumption, maintain continuous abstinence, and reduce alcohol-related consequences.

The new comprehensive analysis evaluated 35 studies which examined the outcomes of 10,080 participants and used a variety of methods to measure AA's effectiveness on AUD, including the length of time participants abstained from alcohol; the amount they reduced their drinking, if they continued drinking; the consequences of their drinking; and health care costs.  Across these measures, AA performed at least as well as other behavioral treatments, and AA was more effective in increasing abstinence. 

“Fewer than 1 in 10 people with AUD receive any help in a given year,” says Dr. George F. Koob, NIAAA Director. “It’s important that clinicians and consumers make decisions about treatment for AUD based on scientific evidence, and this carefully conducted meta-analysis suggests that AA should be on the list of options to consider.”

Insofar as the symptoms of AUD vary from person to person, the effectiveness of treatment approaches can also vary among individuals.  More research is needed to determine which individuals would benefit most from AA or other treatment strategies.


Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs for alcohol use disorder.

Kelly JF, Humphreys K, Ferri M.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Mar 11;3:CD012880. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012880.pub2. Review.

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