Study Looks at Impact of Alcoholics Anonymous on Incarcerated Women

A new study examined the effectiveness of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for incarcerated women and those recently released from jail, and found that attending meetings at least once a week increases the likelihood of a successful recovery. Researchers from Butler Hospital at Brown University noticed that incarcerated women are significantly understudied, despite the growing number of female prisoners, and wanted to look into the treatment of alcoholism in this population.

Yael Chatav Schonbrun, a research fellow in psychiatry at Butler Hospital at Brown University, said that their study is only the first step in helping women who are at risk of mental disorders, health issues, and risky sexual behavior. Schonbrun said Alcoholics Anonymous is a widely available resource for underserved populations, so the researchers thought it was logical to look at the effectiveness of AA meeting attendance and how useful the program would be for incarcerated women and women who have just left prison.

The researchers examined 223 women who drank hazardously (averaging about 12 drinks per drinking day) from the women’s facility at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections Adult Correctional Institute. Two sessions were conducted—one during incarceration and one after release—along with follow-ups at one, three, and six months to determine alcohol use and treatment. During the sessions, the researchers used a timeline to assess the alcohol use during the previous 90 days, as well as to determine the severity of the participants’ drinking, other drug use, and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.

They found that the women who attended AA meetings once a week or more had significantly decreased levels of alcohol-related consequences, and experienced a decrease in their total drinking days.

Schonbrun said that because AA is so widely available and is a familiar resource for incarcerated women, finding a way to increase AA utilization could improve alcohol-related outcomes for this population. Schonbrun added that the researchers hope the study will call more attention to the needs of incarcerated women.

"We hope that this study will call further attention to the needs of incarcerated women and that this research will help to arouse increased interest in addressing the needs of this underserved population," Schonbrun said in a journal news release.

Schonbrun added that more research is needed to look at the duration and frequency of AA meeting attendance, as well as whether the figures are similar for incarcerated men.

Source: Science Daily, Effects of Alcoholics Anonymous on Women Returning from Prison, December 14, 2010

Posted on December 16th, 2010

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