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Patients' abstinence status affects the benefits of 12-step self-help group participation on substance use disorder outcomes.

McKellar JD, Harris AH, Moos RH. Patients' abstinence status affects the benefits of 12-step self-help group participation on substance use disorder outcomes. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2009 Jan 1; 99(1-3):115-22.

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BACKGROUND: Studies measuring the effectiveness of 12-step self-help group attendance have yielded mixed results but none of the prior studies have accounted for the potential impact of interim abstinence status. METHODS: Participants were 1683 patients with substance use disorders (SUD) from 88 community residential facilities. Self-report data were collected at baseline and 1- and 4-year follow-ups, and included measures of SUD severity, social resources, coping, and 12-step self-help group attendance. We tested the hypothesis that 12-step self-help group attendance is more effective for non-abstinent patients than for abstinent patients. We also controlled for self-selection effects by using propensity score analyses and we cross-validated our results in a second sample of patients (N = 2173). RESULTS: Sample 1. Patients abstinent at 1-year post-treatment who attended 12-step self-help group meetings were no more likely to be abstinent at 4 years than abstinent patients who did not attend. However, for patients not abstinent at 1 year, a significant improvement in abstinence rates at 4 years emerged for those who attended 12-step self-help groups compared to those who did not (42% vs. 28.9%). A similar pattern emerged for SUD problems. There were no benefits from 12-step self-help group attendance for patients abstinent at 1 year, but non-abstinent patients who attended 12-step self-help groups had significantly fewer problems at 4 years. Sample 2. The cross-validation yielded consistent results as 12-step self-help group attendance led to higher abstinence rates and fewer SUD problems only among patients non-abstinent at interim assessment. CONCLUSIONS: Individual''s abstinence status should be considered when evaluating the potential influence of 12-step self-help group attendance on SUD outcomes. In addition, increased clinical resources should focus on assessing patients after discharge and on improving linkage of non-abstinent patients to self-help groups.

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