In 1934, a Westchester stockbroker, Bill Wilson, promised his wife he’d never drink again. Then during the following spring, he nearly fell off the wagon. In a desperate move he called a local surgeon and drunk Bob Smith. It was that conversation that marked the first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year A.A.—with its 12 guiding principles to sobriety—is a hallmark institution for addicts. But does it work?
Well, a 2006 study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research followed 349 drinkers over five years. And scientists found that success rates correlated with the frequency and length of A.A. attendance.
Of those who dropped out of A.A. after the first year, only 43 percent were still sober at year five. Of those who went to 60 meetings a year, 73 percent continued to abstain. And 79 percent of those who attended 200 meetings annually had gone into remission by year five. Maybe most surprising, is that 61 percent of those who attended 200 meetings in their first year but dropped down to six meetings in year five, were still able to stay dry.
But such results show a correlation, and that results, like most things in life, are based on individual circumstances and personality.
Nonetheless, most long-term studies conclude that if one sticks with A.A. for the long haul, at least five years, then chances for permanent abstinence steadily increases.