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Friday, April 5, 2013

Evaluating Alcoholics Anonymous's Effect on Drinking in Project MATCH Using Cross-Lagged Regression Panel Analysis


The objective of the study is to determine whether Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) participation leads to reduced drinking and problems related to drinking within Project MATCH (Matching Alcoholism Treatments to Client Heterogeneity), an existing national alcoholism treatment data set.

The method used is structural equation modeling of panel data with cross-lagged partial regression coefficients. The main advantage of this technique for the analysis of AA outcomes is that potential reciprocal causation between AA participation and drinking behavior can be explicitly modeled through the specification of finite causal lags.

For the outpatient subsample (n = 952), the results strongly support the hypothesis that AA attendance leads to increases in alcohol abstinence and reduces drinking/ problems, whereas a causal effect in the reverse direction is unsupported. For the aftercare subsample (n = 774), the results are not as clear but also suggest that AA attendance leads to better outcomes.

Although randomized controlled trials are the surest means of establishing causal relations between interventions and outcomes, such trials are rare in AA research for practical reasons. The current study successfully exploited the multiple data waves in Project MATCH to examine evidence of causality between AA participation and drinking outcomes. The study obtained unique statistical results supporting the effectiveness of AA primarily in the context of primary outpatient treatment for alcoholism .

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