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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Psychiatric Comorbidity and 12-Step Participation: A Longitudinal Investigation of Treated Young Adults

Evidence indicates that 12-step mutual-help organizations (MHOs), such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can play an important role in extending and potentiating the recovery benefits of professionally delivered addiction treatment among young adults with substance use disorders (SUD). However, concerns have lingered regarding the suitability of 12-step organizations for certain clinical subgroups, such as those with dual diagnosis (DD). This study examined the influence of diagnostic status (DD vs. SUD-only) on both attendance and active involvement (e.g., having a sponsor, verbal participation during meetings) in, and derived benefits from, 12-step MHOs following residential treatment.
Young adults (N = 296; 18 to 24 years old; 26% female; 95% Caucasian; 47% DD [based on structured diagnostic interview]), enrolled in a prospective naturalistic study of SUD treatment effectiveness, were assessed at intake and 3, 6, and 12 months posttreatment on 12-step attendance/active involvement and percent days abstinent (PDA). t-Tests and lagged, hierarchical linear models (HLM) examined the extent to which diagnostic status influenced 12-step participation and any derived benefits, respectively.

For DD and SUD-only patients, posttreatment attendance and active involvement in 12-step
organizations were similarly high. Overall, DD patients had significantly lower PDA relative to SUD-only patients. All patients appeared to benefit significantly from attendance and active involvement on a combined 8-item index. Regarding the primary effects of interest, significant differences did not emerge in derived benefit between DD and SUD-only patients for either attendance (p = 0.436) or active involvement (p = 0.062). Subsidiary analyses showed, however, that DD patients experienced significantly greater abstinence-related benefit from having a 12-step sponsor.
Despite concerns regarding the clinical utility of 12-step MHOs for DD patients, findings indicate that DD young adults participate and benefit as much as SUD-only patients, and may benefit more from high levels of active involvement, particularly having a 12-step sponsor. Future work is needed to clarify how active 12-step involvement might offset the additional recovery burden of a comorbid mental illness on substance use outcomes.

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