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A new study examining how Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps its members stay sober finds two crucial factors are needed: spending more time with people who support abstinence, and having greater confidence in one’s ability to maintain sobriety in social situations.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital evaluated data from more than 1,700 study participants in a program called Project MATCH, which compared three alcohol treatment approaches. They received assessments three, nine and 15 months after completing the program, in which they reported their alcohol consumption and attendance at AA meetings. They also completed an assessment that looked at factors, including their confidence in remaining abstinent in social situations, and whether their close social network supported or discouraged their efforts to stay sober.

The study also found reduced depression and increased spirituality or religious practices had a significant role in the recovery of people who had received inpatient treatment, meaning they most likely had been more seriously dependent on alcohol, according to Science Daily.

“Our findings are shedding light on how AA helps people recover from addiction over time,” study leader John F. Kelly, PhD, said in a news release. “The results suggest that social context factors are key; the people who associate with individuals attempting to begin recovery can be crucial to their likelihood of success. AA appears adept at facilitating and supporting those social changes.”

The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Addiction.

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