The effects of spirituality in Alcoholics Anonymous on alcohol dependence

December 14, 2010

Addictions, whether it is to drugs or alcohol, are a very difficult hurdle for individuals to overcome. But, there are ways to help people with their recovery through 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Many of these organizations, including AA, highlight spirituality as a very important factor, but the data surrounding its effectiveness have often been contested.

However, new research shows that as attendance of AA meetings increase, so do the participants spiritual beliefs, especially in those individuals who had low spirituality at the beginning of the study.

The results will be published in the March 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

John F. Kelly, lead author of the study, Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that while spirituality is an important aspect of AA recovery, it is not the only way they can help individuals.

"I've heard it said that AA is too spiritual, and I've also heard it said that AA is not spiritual enough for some people. Although this is not the only way that AA helps individuals recover, I think these findings support the notion that AA works in part by enhancing spiritual practices," Kelly said.

The researchers assessed more than 1,500 adults throughout their recovery process, with data being gathered at three, six, nine, 12, and 15 months. The study utilized data on their attendance to AA meetings, their individual spirituality/religiosity practices and overall alcohol-use outcomes to determine if spirituality is indeed a mechanism of behavior change.

The results indicated that there was a robust association between an increase in attendance to AA meetings with increased spirituality and a decrease in the frequency and intensity of alcohol use over time. One of the most interesting aspects of the research was that the same amount of recovery was seen in both agnostics and atheists, which indicates that while spirituality is an important mechanism of behavioral change for AA, it is not the only method used.

"Many people will be surprised that alcoholic patients with little or no interest in spirituality attended AA and seemed to change even more than did those who had a pre-existing, strong sense of spirituality," said Keith Humphreys, a Career Research Scientist with the Veterans Health Administration and Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. "AA is thus much more broad in its appeal than is commonly recognized."

The researchers also noted that while spirituality is an important aspect of recovery, it is still not known how these beliefs work in complement or competition with other recovery methods, as there are multiple.

"We have also found that AA participation leads to recovery by helping members change their social network and by enhancing individuals' recovery coping skills, motivation for continued abstinence, and by reducing depression and increasing psychological well-being," said Kelly.

"Down the road it will be important to conduct more qualitative research as well as further quantitative replication of our findings in order to understand more about how exactly spiritual practices and beliefs influence coping and behavioral change in recovery from addiction"
-end-
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) is the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Co-authors of the ACER paper, "Spirituality in Recovery: A Lagged Mediational Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous' Principal Theoretical Mechanism of Behavior Change" were Robert L. Stout of the Decision Sciences Institute/PIRE, Molly Magill from the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, J. Scott Tonigan of the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addiction (CASAA) at the University of New Mexico, and Maria E. Pagano of the Department of Psychiatry from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The study was supported by a grant from the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This release is supported by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network at http://www.ATTCnetwork.org.

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.