Objective: Long-term studies of the course of alcoholism suggest that a variety of factors other than professional treatment influence the process of recovery. This study evaluated the role of demographic factors, baseline alcohol-related problems and depression, professional treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other social and community resources in predicting remission and psychosocial outcome over 8 years.
Method: A sample of 628 previously untreated alcoholic individuals was recruited at detoxification units and alcoholism information and referral services. Of these participants, 395 (68.2%) were followed 3 and 8 years later. Most (83.3%) were white (n = 329) and 50.1% (n = 198) were men. At each contact point, participants completed a self-administered inventory that assessed their current problems, treatment utilization, AA participation and quality of relationships.
Results: Number of inpatient treatment days received in the 3 years after baseline were not independently related to 8-year remission or psychosocial outcomes. More outpatient treatment in the first 3 years increased the likelihood of 8-year remission, but was not related to psychosocial outcomes. The number of AA meetings attended in the first 3 years predicted remission, lower depression, and higher quality relationships with friends and spouse/partner at 8 years. Extended family quality at baseline also predicted remission and higher quality friendships and family relationships at 8 years.
Conclusions: Given that alcoholism is a chronic, context-dependent disorder, it is not surprising that short-term interventions have little long-term impact. Social and community resources that are readily available for long periods are more likely to have a lasting influence on the course of alcoholism.