AA Treatment Costs Less

Reduced Costs for Participants of Alcoholics Anonymous

The people in this study had never sought treatment for alcoholism. A comparison was made between those who wished to attend AA and those who were seeking professional outpatient help.

At entry to the study AA participants had less education, less income, more adverse effects of alcohol, a higher score on alcohol dependence scales, a higher (detrimental) depression score, but were similar in all other ways.

  • 8.1% of AA attenders sought detoxification.
  • 6.1% of outpatient seekers sought detoxification.

Similar percentages (18%) of both groups were admitted for inpatient rehabilitation.

Over 3 years;

  • AA members sought professional help on average of 6.5 time while initial outpatient people sought professional treatment 33.6 times.
  • AA members averaged 88 AA meetings per year while outpatients attended on average 40 AA meetings per year.
  • AA members averaged 0.7 detoxification’s while outpatient seekers averaged 0.4 detoxification’s (not statistically significant).
  • AA members averaged 16.2 days in residential treatment while outpatient seekers averaged 19.8 days in residential treatment (not statistically significant).
  • AA members total cost for treatment averaged $US2,251, while outpatient seekers averaged $US4,077 (1990’s values).
  • Treatment costs for Alcoholics Anonymous members were 45% lower than for professional help seekers.

Both groups experienced significant improvement on all measures.

Outcomes;

  • AA members improved from an average of 12.3 ounces of alcohol per day to 3.1 ounces per day. Outpatients improved from an average of 10.0 ounces of alcohol per day to 5.7 ounces per day.
  • AA members improved from an average alcohol dependence score of 10.9 to 3.2. Outpatients improved from an average alcohol dependence score of 8.6 to 3.2.
  • AA members improved from an average ‘adverse consequences’ score of 10.7 to 2.8. Outpatients improved from an average ‘adverse consequences’ score of 8.2 to 2.6.
  • AA members improved from an average number of drinking days in the last month of 12.0 to 1.7. Outpatients improved from an average number of drinking days in the last month of 11.1 to 2.3.
  • AA members improved on a depression score from 20.2 to 14.1. Outpatients improved on a depression score from 18.8 to 12.6.
  • Forty six percent of AA members and 35% of outpatients reported no alcohol related negative consequences in the 6 months prior to the 3-year follow up point.

The authors recommend policy makers devote funds for;

  • Self-Help clearing house.
  • Information campaigns to promote public awareness of self-help.
  • Training programs which inform professionals of the benefits of developing positive relations with self-help groups.

These initiatives, based on USA experience, are economical in that self-help groups have the capacity to reduce the workload of current professional services.

From: Humphreys K., & Moos RH. (1996) Reduced Substance-Abuse-Related Health Care Costs Among Voluntary Participants in Alcoholics Anonymous. Psychiatric Services. July, V47, No7, 709-13.

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