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AA Success Rates

The success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous is notoriously hard to gauge. The results have always been a topic of dispute and contention between independent studies performed by institutions and AA, largely due to the anonymous nature of the group.

AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide, and there have been more than 130 similar 12-step recovery programs modeled after the priciples of AA.  Regardless of the presence of solid statistics, it is largely undisputed that AA does, in fact, help people with their alcohol addiction. And it can be invaluable if you are early in your recovery.

The largest reason Alcoholics Anonymous has such a wide range of reported success rates is twofold. For one, Alcoholics Anonymous is anonymous and many group members deeply involved with AA may feel that participating in a study would be a breach of that anonymity. Secondly, it is suggested that the guilt associated with relapse affects self-reporting by participants.

Statistics Based on AA’s Ongoing Study

There are statistics available however, many of which are reported by AA. The organization has kept an ongoing, triennial study since 1968 that concludes findings based on answers from a collective pool of members.  Since there is no standard of what defines “success” amongst different studies, AA instead lists ongoing sobriety percentages among members, according to the years they have been active in the program.

Long-Term AA Success Statistics

AA success statistics are often hard to gauge because of different variables, but statistics released in 2007 by AA reported on the success of AA members and the length of sobriety.

  • 31 percent of members were sober for less than a year’s time
  • 24 percent were sober for between one and five years
  • 12 percent were sober for between five and 10 years
  • 33 percent were sober for 10 or more years

These statistics do not show a failure rate, but they indicate how AA members do succeed in long-term sobriety. The average sobriety time of members that were surveyed was eight years.

Along with these statistics are the numbers that show how important involvement in AA is to the members who continue with the program. One of the mottos of AA is “It works if you work it,” and you will find, if you are considering Alcoholics Anonymous, this is true for most. There are individuals who find strength and hope with AA, and statistics support this sentiment.

  • About 63 percent of members continued recovery after initial treatment with AA.
  • Approximately 85 percent were members of a home group, or a regularly attended group.
  • The average number of attended meetings per week was 2.5.
  • About 79 percent of members have a sponsor, or a fellow member who provides individual support.
  • About 74 percent of members reported that AA was an important part of their recovery.

What Defines Success in Alcoholics Anonymous?

Another reason it is hard to represent findings in a study on AA success rates is that is it hard to define what “success” actually means. In the Big Book, AA’s main piece of literature, AA states its approximate success rate is 50 percent, plus 25 percent. This means that 50 percent of members remain sober, 25 percent of members relapse but come back, and 25 percent fail to use AA effectively and do not remain sober.

Overall, AA is something that offers support, direction and comfort for those striving to remain sober. You may find that AA is something that you do find successful, as you define it. Part of that success, even defined statistically by AA, supports its motto, “Keep coming back.” That seems like the first steps of successfully sobriety, continuing to work for it.

Many times, addicts participate in an inpatient addiction recovery program, to intensely address their addiction issues, and then augment their recovery with aftercare in the form of AA meetings. If you’d like to learn more about treatment and how AA can factor into your recovery, then do not hesitate to contact us.


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