Addicted Teens Benefit From 12-Step Meetings Attendance

Approximately one-quarter attend meetings; attendance correlates with greater abstinence

WEDNESDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- For adolescents with substance use disorder, attendance at 12-step programs is low, although more frequent attendance correlates with greater abstinence, according to a study published online April 16 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

To investigate the extent to which adolescents attend and benefit from 12-step meetings, John F. Kelly, Ph.D., and Karen Urbanoski, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, enrolled 127 adolescent outpatients (mean age, 16.7 years; 75 percent male; 87 percent white) in a naturalistic study of treatment effectiveness. Standardized assessments were conducted at intake and three, six, and 12 months later. The concurrent and lagged effects of attendance and active involvement on abstinence were measured over time.

Across the follow-up period, the researchers found that a relatively low proportion attended 12-step meetings (24 to 29 percent); more frequent attendance correlated independently with greater abstinence in concurrent models. Outcomes were not enhanced with an eight-item composite measure of 12-step involvement, above attendance. However, specific components, such as contact with a 12-step sponsor outside of meetings and more verbal participation in meetings enhanced outcomes above attendance.

"The benefits of 12-step participation observed among adult samples extend to adolescent outpatients," the authors write. "Community 12-step fellowships appear to provide a useful sobriety-supportive social context for youth seeking recovery, but evidence-based youth-specific 12-step facilitation strategies are needed to enhance outpatient attendance rates."

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