What is alcoholic Anonymous 1

Alcoholics Anonymous: Staying Dry in the Pandemic

With the lockdown, a number of therapeutic settings collapsed. Alcoholics Anonymous, who are very successful in terms of abstinence, according to Cochrane, have long offered online alternatives.

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Alcoholics Anonymous has always relied on regular meetings: "The closed meetings are a central component of our work and very important for its success," emphasizes Jürgen Hoß, the 1st chairman of this association. Here, those affected speak about their illness in the protection of anonymity and with people who share the same experience. The importance of the meetings can also be seen quantitatively from the fact that 300 or more group meetings take place regularly in regions such as North Rhine-Westphalia or Bavaria - 49 groups are active in a city like Cologne alone, and 67 in Munich and the surrounding area. Nationwide there are around 1,800.

Effective abstinence program

An analysis by the renowned Cochrane Collaboration recently confirmed how successful Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), who are solely self-financed through donations, are. The review included 27 studies, including 21 randomized controlled studies, with 10,565 participants.

It is the first comprehensive study of its kind. Because although the AA was founded more than 80 years ago, there have been hardly any rigorous analyzes of the effectiveness of such a procedure, the Cochrane authors write. The evaluation showed that the AA-led meetings or settings based on the 12-point program (Twelve Step Facilitation, TSF) were significantly more effective than therapies such as motivational enhancement therapy (MET) or cognitive behavioral therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT). It was found that the AA-based approach keeps more people permanently abstinent than the alternatives mentioned. The same applies to reducing the amount of alcohol consumption. The evidence for such statements is high. It is to be expected that this could also save substantial costs for the health system.

The traditional closed meetings take place at least once a week, sometimes more often - but not since the lockdown in March. There were initially fears that this could mean a high risk of relapse for some of those affected. "However, we had established a number of alternatives for a long time and independently of the COVID-19 pandemic, which actually only had to be expanded," said Hoß, who has been involved with the AA for 6 years as a person who was not affected himself.

On the AA homepage there is therefore not only a search function to find a group on site, but also explanations for the different variants of the online meetings (http://daebl.de/FG14). This includes the simple exchange via an e-mail distribution list with all registered participants in a group. The chat meetings at fixed times have been established for a long time, in order to exchange ideas in real time in a chat room. In addition, listening and speaking meetings are offered via the Skype messenger. In addition to the permanent online meetings, more and more temporary ones have established themselves in the corona crisis.

"For many, data protection is important so that anonymity is still preserved," explains Hoß. Similar to telephone conference circuits, there are assigned PINs in order to be able to participate at all. It is not possible to quantify where and in which groups video sessions take place, for example via Zoom or other providers. "The groups are self-sufficient, we cannot collect any statistics." The occasional, non-representative feedback, however, gave the impression that, thanks to the established alternatives, it was possible to switch over immediately after the lockdown, according to the Executive Board. In the meantime, more than 250 new meetings have been created on the Internet. However - this is also pointed out on the homepage - online meetings are not always a substitute for face-to-face meetings.

Dr. med. Martina Lenzen-Schulte

Kelly JF, Humphreys K, Ferri M: Alcoholics Anonymous and Other 12-step Programs for Alcohol Use Disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Mar 11; 3 (3): CD012880 CrossRef