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Attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings may reduce depression symptoms
Date:1/28/2010

One of many reasons that attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings helps people with alcohol use disorders stay sober appears to be alleviation of depression. A team of researchers has found that study participants who attended AA meetings more frequently had fewer symptoms of depression along with less drinking than did those with less AA participation. The report will appear in the journal Addiction and has been release online.

"Our study is one of the first to examine the mechanisms underlying behavioral change with AA and to find that AA attendance alleviates depression symptoms," says study leader John F. Kelly, PhD, associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Addiction Medicine. "Perhaps the social aspects of AA helps people feel better psychologically and emotionally as well as stop drinking."

The authors note that problems with mood regulation such as depression are common among people with alcohol problems both preceding and being exacerbated by alcohol use. Although AA does not explicitly address depression, the program's 12 steps and social fellowship are designed to support participants' sense of well being. While mood problems often improve after several weeks of abstinence, that process may happen more quickly in AA participants. The current study was designed to investigate whether decreasing depression and enhancing psychological well-being help explain AA's positive effects.

The researchers analyzed data from Project MATCH, a federally funded trial comparing three treatment approaches for alcohol use disorder in more than 1,700 participants. While participants in that study were randomly assigned to a specific treatment plan, all were able to attend AA meetings as well. Among the data gathered at several points during Project MATCH's 15-month study period were participants' alcohol consumption, the number of AA meetings attended, and recent symptoms of depressio
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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