Social network variables in alcoholics anonymous : A literature review

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most commonly used program for substance abuse recovery and one of the few models to demonstrate positive abstinence outcomes.

Although little is known regarding the underlying mechanisms that make this program effective, one frequently cited aspect is social support.

In order to gain insight into the processes at work in AA, this paper reviewed 24 papers examining the relationship between AA and social network variables.

Various types of social support were included in the review such as

  • structural support,
  • functional support,
  • general support,
  • alcohol-specific support, and
  • recovery helping.

Overall, this review found that AA involvement is related to a variety of positive qualitative and quantitative changes in social support networks.

Although AA had the greatest impact on friend networks, it had less influence on networks consisting of family members or others.

In addition, support from others in AA was found to be of great value to recovery, and individuals with harmful social networks supportive of drinking actually benefited the most from AA involvement.

Furthermore, social support variables consistently mediated AA’s impact on abstinence, suggesting that social support is a mechanism in the effectiveness of AA in promoting a sober lifestyle. Recommendations are made for future research and clinical practice.

Research report; Groh DR, Jason LA, Keys CB. Social network variables in alcoholics anonymous : A literature review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2007 Aug 7.

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