Intensive referral to 12-Step self-help groups and 6-month substance use disorder outcomes

Addiction. 2006 May;101(5):678-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01391.x.


Aims: This study implemented and evaluated procedures to help clinicians make effective referrals to 12-Step self-help groups.

Design: Randomized controlled trial. Setting Out-patient substance use disorder treatment. Participants Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) entering a new treatment episode (n = 345) who were assigned randomly to a standard referral- or an intensive referral-to-self-help condition.

Measurements: Self-reports of 12-Step group attendance and involvement and substance use at baseline and a 6-month follow-up.

Intervention: The intensive referral intervention focused on encouraging patients to attend 12-Step meetings by connecting them to 12-Step volunteers.

Findings: Among patients with relatively less previous 12-Step meeting attendance, intensive referral was associated with more meeting attendance during follow-up than was standard referral. Among all patients, compared with those who received standard referral, those who received intensive referral were more likely to be involved with 12-Step groups during the 6-month follow-up (i.e. had provided service, had a spiritual awakening and currently had a sponsor). Intensive referral patients also had better alcohol and drug use outcomes at 6 months. Twelve-Step involvement mediated part of the association between referral condition and alcohol outcomes.

Conclusions: The brief intensive referral intervention was associated with improved 12-Step group involvement and substance use outcomes even among patients with considerable previous 12-Step group exposure and formal treatment. Future 12-Step intensive referral procedures should focus on encouraging 12-Step group involvement in addition to attendance to benefit patients most effectively.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Referral and Consultation / standards*
  • Self-Help Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome