WHAT IS COMMUNITY SUPPORT?
When someone thinks of quitting alcohol or drugs, nine times out of ten the first thing that pops into their mind is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). That’s because when AA began in the 1930s, it was the first organized system created by alcoholics, for alcoholics, to help them quit drinking alcohol. AA was not the first organized movement to help people with problem drinking – those appeared in the 19th century – but it was the first that sought to help people through community and fellowship. Whereas the early temperance and abstinence movement sought to remove people with drinking problems from society and place them in reformatories, sober houses, or homes for inebriates in order to treat them for their disease, the founders of AA realized the best way for a person to stop drinking was to welcome them to a supportive group of like-minded individuals who shared one common goal: to achieve sobriety through abstinence from alcohol.
That’s how the community support model of treatment for addiction began. It’s the same Twelve Step model in use around the world today. AA has chapters in almost every country, and a global membership of over two million people. Experts debate AA’s effectiveness, and research over the past fifty years shows mixed results. Some studies say AA works, some say AA doesn’t work, and others say AA works in combination with other treatments, such as lifestyle changes, therapy, and in some cases, medication. However, the latest research on AA, published by Stanford University in 2020 – which included data from 27 studies containing over 10,000 participants – concludes that AA and other Twelve Step programs are more effective than other established treatments for increasing abstinence from alcohol.