Does Alcoholics Anonymous Actually Work?

November 27, 2022

One of the most challenging steps in the recovery process is coming to terms with your need for treatment. But once you are ready for treatment, you are faced with another challenge of choosing a treatment program. You may consider Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) because of its popularity. But does Alcoholics Anonymous actually work? Finding out the effectiveness of AA can help you determine if attending this program is right for you.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous?

AA is a network of various groups that allow you to join if you’re aiming for sobriety. There is no age requirement or participation fee; these meetings are completely free. Another benefit that’s in the name itself is that it is entirely confidential. Your most vulnerable and honest moments are held only within the intimate help group.

So, what do you actually do in AA? First, AA utilizes the Twelve Steps to achieve recovery and sobriety. 12-Step programs are supportively peer-oriented and are used not only for AA but also for other substance abuse treatments, behavioral addictions, and mental health concerns. 

This model’s main principle is that while people can support one another in achieving and maintaining abstinence from substances of abuse, healing cannot occur until those who suffer from addictions submit to a higher power. This higher power does not necessarily have to be the classic Christian conception of God; it might be anything as basic as the 12-Step fellowship, the universe, or another higher power appropriate for you and your beliefs.

However, this type of program doesn’t work for everyone. One main criticism of this treatment is that it relies heavenly on traditional Christian principles, but this can easily be modified for those seeking a universal recovery program. 

What Are the Twelve Steps?

The Twelve Steps are outlined in the Big Book of AA as follows:

  1. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Of course, this can be redefined and altered to match your personal beliefs and spiritual ideology.

Research Confirms the Effectiveness of AA

Scientific research has confirmed that AA is actually the most effective treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD). A study published by Stanford Medicine, “Alcoholics Anonymous Most Effective Path to Alcohol Abstinence,” concluded after extensive research that AA is more effective in reaching sobriety than traditional therapy. 

Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, collaborated with investigators by assessing thirty-five studies involving a whopping 10,080 participants and 145 scientists. As a result, they discovered that AA was considered more effective than psychotherapy in gaining sobriety. Additionally, the studies also revealed that AA could significantly lower healthcare costs.

Humphreys has explained that AA is successful due to social and communal factors. AA members support one another and provide emotional understanding, acceptance, and practical life tips to achieve sobriety. “If you want to change your behavior, find some other people who are trying to make the same change,” he said.

What to Expect When You Join AA

AA meetings come in a number of forms, and each meeting has a distinctive local touch. In the majority of meetings, participants will discuss the effects drinking has had on them and the people around them. Most also talk about how they stopped consuming alcohol and how they live their lives now.

AA meetings may be open or closed, which means that if open, the meeting is open for those interested in AUD recovery and simply observe, even if you don’t consider yourself an alcoholic. Meanwhile, close meetings are only for those going through recovery or seeking sobriety

There are various formats for AA group meetings that you may encounter. The most common are discussion meetings where each member discusses their struggles and personal experience. Another type is when speakers are selected beforehand to tell their own stories. You may also have a meeting where everyone studies from the Big Book and examines each step at each meeting. Whatever the format, AA offers help from those with a similar perspective and understanding.

While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is considered highly effective, medical detoxing and physical rehabilitation are crucial. At Buena Vista Recovery, we have a first-class medical healthcare staff to help you detox from alcohol misuse. Before serious addiction treatment can start, clients must go through a medical detox program to get their bodies free of any chemical poisons and alcohol. 

Interventions at our Arizona inpatient medical detox campus include doing an initial assessment, keeping tabs on the patient’s detoxification, and putting a health education component into place right after withdrawal. Every client is continuously monitored by our board-certified doctors and our highly trained, experienced nursing staff to ensure their safety and comfort. Alcohol detox typically lasts a week, though it varies from person to person. If you are ready to start your journey to recovery and wellness, reach out to us at Buena Vista Recovery by calling (480) 741-9414.