Does Alcoholics Anonymous work? The results from a meta-analysis of controlled experiments

Subst Use Misuse. 1999 Nov;34(13):1897-916. doi: 10.3109/10826089909039431.


This article reviews the outcome (usually abstinence at 12 months) of 21 controlled studies of AA, with emphasis on methodological quality. Severe selection biases compromised all quasi-experiments. Randomized studies yielded worse results for AA than nonrandomized studies, but were biased by selection of coerced subjects. Attending conventional AA meetings was worse than no treatment or alternative treatment; residential AA-modeled treatments performed no better or worse than alternatives; and several components of AA seemed supported (recovering alcoholics as therapists, peer-led self-help therapy groups, teaching the Twelve-Step process, and doing an honest inventory).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholics Anonymous*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Temperance
  • Treatment Outcome