FRN Research Brief: Attending 12-step Meetings Improves Outcomes


Most substance abuse treatment programs in the United States seek to involve clients in twelve-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Dual Recovery Anonymous, etc. By providing continuing support and structure, these programs serve to assist in the development of sober social support systems and ultimately reduce rates of relapse and subsequent treatment utilization. Recent studies of twelve-step meeting attendance have further supported the idea that individuals who attend, and more importantly become involved in, meetings maintain abstinence from alcohol and drug use. Importantly, similar benefits of twelve-step attendance have also been found for individuals with co-occurring disorders.

Our Findings

As part of our evaluation of FRN’s residential treatment outcomes, we analyzed data collected in 2008-2009 from clients at La Paloma Treatment Center. Participants completed a baseline interview within four days of arriving at the facility, followed by 1-Month and 6-Month Post-Discharge Interviews.

At 1-Month post-discharge, there was no statistically significant difference with regard to self-help group attendance and the number of days of alcohol use (F (4, 114) = .31, p >.05). However, at 6-months post-discharge there was a statistically significant difference with regard to self-help group attendance and the number of days of alcohol use (F (4,113) = 4.27, p < .01). Specifically, at 6-Months post-discharge, those participants that reported not attending a self-help group in the past thirty days statistically significantly reported more days of alcohol use (M = 6.66, SD = 9.63) than those attending one to three times per week (M = 2.61, SD = 5.94), four to five times per week (M = .32, SD = .82), and more than five times per week (M = .08, SD = .28).


These findings clearly demonstrate the importance of participating in 12-step meetings. While this is well known in the substance abuse field, these results suggest the relevance of 12-step meeting attendance for individuals who attended FRN’s residential treatment programming. It is important to note that consistent attendance is important as the differences in benefits are not realized until 6-months post-discharge. Additionally, there is a relationship between frequency of attendance and abstinence rates. Individuals who attended meetings at least 4 days per week were less likely to report alcohol use than those who did not attend or attended less than once per week. Based on the graph above, there appears to be a threshold at 4 meetings per week for complete abstinence.

These findings do have some limitations. At present, analysis of outcomes was limited to alcohol use due to sample size issues (e.g., small number relapsing and fewer days using illegal drugs post-discharge). Also, these are preliminary findings based on data from only one facility. As more data are collected across FRN facilities, analysis of drug use trends and other findings will become available.