AA Affiliation in Black & White Americans

Alcoholics Anonymous affiliation at treatment intake among white and black Americans.

OBJECTIVE: Black Americans are overrepresented in the public alcohol treatment system, but may be less likely to use informal services such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Some commentators perceive AA as a white, middle-class organization that is unlikely to appeal to blacks. This epidemiological study considers prior attendance and engagement in AA among 791 black and white men and women entering treatment in public, private and HMO substance abuse programs.

METHOD: Clients were interviewed in-person within the first 3 days of inpatient treatment or the first 3 weeks of outpatient treatment.

RESULTS: Black clients dominate public detoxification programs and report more drug and employment problems than whites (who report more family problems).

Those with prior treatment experiences and those reporting they had gone to AA as part of treatment reported overall higher rates of AA affiliation, with blacks more likely to say they felt like a member of AA (64% vs 54% of whites), had a spiritual awakening as a result of AA (38% vs 27%) and had done service at AA meetings in the last year (48% vs 37%); whites were more likely to have had a sponsor (23% vs 14%) and to have read program literature (77% vs 67%).

CONCLUSIONS: Controlling for other effects such as prior inpatient or outpatient treatment, blacks are about twice as likely as whites to report having attended AA as part of treatment (OR = 1.70). More research is needed to understand referral pathways to AA among blacks, and the differential effect this may have on sustained participation in AA and on long-term sobriety.

Kaskutas LA, Weisner C, Lee M, Humphreys K. Alcoholics Anonymous affiliation at treatment intake among white and black Americans. J Stud Alcohol. 1999 Nov;60(6):810-6.


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