Understanding how Alcoholics Anonymous promotes recovery for Alcohol Use Disorder

Although frequent AA meeting attendance is associated with greater abstinence from alcohol, there is little understanding of the specific mechanisms by which AA benefits people. In other words, we know that AA works, but we aren’t sure how. In this longitudinal study, researchers are examining impulsivity and social networks to better understand the role these factors play in AA success. The study involves people seeking treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder in both inpatient and outpatient settings, with study sites in Guelph and Hamilton, Ontario, and Boston, Massachusetts.

Participants are assessed when they begin treatment, at 4-6 weeks into treatment, and at four more time points over a one-year period. Assessments ask about alcohol use, personality traits, family and peer behaviour, and general personal and health information. Novel approaches are used to measure impulsive behaviour and to analyze participants’ social networks, revealing clues about how these mechanisms relate to abstinence and other markers of recovery.

Research Team: Dr. James MacKillop (McMaster University, HRI), Dr. John Kelly (Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School), Alyna Walji (HRI)

Funder: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; National Institutes of Health (USA)