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Study Finds AA Works (If You Work It)

A ten-year study shows people who help others through the AA program stay sober longer.

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AA emphasizes helping others through service.
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By McCarton Ackerman

09/07/12

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There's been plenty of debate over the effectiveness of 12-step programs in helping people recover from alcoholism, but a new study suggests that active participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous program does improve one's chances of long-term recovery. The “Helping Others” study was a 10-year, prospective investigation led by Maria Pagano, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Pagano and her colleagues evaluated the outcomes from a single site in Project MATCH, the largest multi-site randomized clinical trial on behavioral treatments of alcoholism sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They found that those in recovery who helped others through the AA program had better consideration of others, lower alcohol use and longer periods of sobriety than those who did not participate in AA. “The AAH findings suggest the importance of getting active in service, which can be in a committed 2-month AA service position or as simple as sharing one’s personal experience in recovery to another fellow sufferer,” said Pagano. “Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction."

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