5 million in U.S. go to alcohol, drug self-help groups

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 5 million Americans attend meetings of self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous for alcohol and drug abusers, and nearly half of them reported remaining clean, a federal study released on Monday showed.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration examined the popularity of meetings like those run in many communities by AA and Narcotics Anonymous.

In these kinds of meetings, people speak to others who also are grappling with drug and alcohol abuse about their experiences and offer emotional support to one another as they try to beat their addiction.

The findings were based on a survey given to 135,672 people age 12 and older in 2006 and 2007, the agency said.

SAMHSA said 5 million people age 12 and older — 2 percent of the U.S. population in that age group — reported attending such a self-help group in the prior year because of alcohol or drugs. About two-thirds of them were male and 80 percent were over age 25.

Of those people, 45 percent reported abstaining from drugs and alcohol during the month before responding to the survey.

About a third of those who attended a self-help group also reported undergoing more formal treatment for addiction in the past year such as entering a formal rehabilitation facility.

Stephen Wing, the agency’s associate administrator for alcohol policy, said about 22 million Americans meet the definition for substance abuse. Wing said the agency did not have data on whether attendance at these types of meetings was increasing over time.

“The data reinforces the fact that participation in self-help groups is associated with abstinence and recovery,” Wing said.

(Editing by Julie Steenhuysen, editing by Jackie Frank)

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