The “Helping Others” Study Finds That Alcoholic Anonymous Works

There have been few scientific studies on the efficacy of 12 step programs – until now. Maria Pagano, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University led a 10-year study known as the “Helping Others” study. Considering the high membership of Alcoholics Anonymous worldwide, the outcome of the study comes as no surprise – active participation in AA does in fact improve one’s chances of successful long term sobriety.

Pagano and her colleagues used Project MATCH, a clinical trial on the efficacy of alcoholism treatments on behavior sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. What they found was that those in AA had lower alcohol use and longer sustained sobriety than non-participants.

Twelve step programs like AA promote service as an important component to the program and staying sober. Service can be as simple as driving someone to a meeting or sharing one’s own personal story with others. It is through this service aspect that many are able to sustain their sobriety and recovery. “Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction” says Pagano.

A large program component of Harmony Foundation’s Drug and Alcohol Programs is service and getting outside of one’s own way to strengthen their own sobriety. To many it seems counter-intuitive who may think don’t I need to focus on myself and analyze my past to overcome it? Or don’t I need to be ok before I can help someone else? Sometimes the best thing a person can do for their recovery is to stop analyzing, thinking, worrying and the best way to do that is to take the focus from inward to outward. Like headlights on a car shining outward, a fellow addict can beam light on others and help them through the darkest of times. In such an instant, the worrying addict forgets their own problems by helping another and inadvertently feels better about themselves. Feeling good about oneself and selflessly giving to others brings pleasure and reward that is undoubtedly deeper and more pleasurable than any false reward from substance abuse.

Harmony foundation’s Colorado drug rehab is rooted in 12 step principles, which do have a lasting impact on the ability of our clients to recover and live productive and fulfilling lives.