Alcoholics Anonymous may be the most effective path to abstinence, study says

(CNN)Alcoholics Anonymous, a worldwide support fellowship with a goal to achieve sobriety, may be the most effective path to abstinence for people struggling with alcohol use disorder, according to a comprehensive analysis published Wednesday.

Since its inception in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous and its effects were hard to study in the absence of adequate study methods, said Dr. Keith Humphreys, study researcher and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University's School of Medicine. AA may have also been contentious among professionals who were trained to address the same issues through established therapies.
The researchers evaluated 35 studies -- the work of 145 scientists and more than 10,000 participants -- to determine the effectiveness of AA on alcohol use disorder. They also examined the efficacy of the program's 12 steps, that include accepting one's inability to control their drinking by themselves, and helping others stay sober by becoming a mentor.
    AA, especially when combined with Twelve-Step Facilitation in which a counselor encouraged adherence to the steps, was found to be more effective than psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy in achieving abstinence, according to the research. AA was also found to be at least as effective as professional treatments for other alcohol-related outcomes such as drinking consequences, drinking intensity, addiction severity and healthcare costs.
    With more than three million alcohol-related deaths globally, and its misuse as the leading risk factor for death (PDF) and disabili