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Ambivalent attendees: Transitions in group affiliation among those who choose a 12-step alternative for addiction.

Tsutsumi S, Timko C, Zemore SE. Ambivalent attendees: Transitions in group affiliation among those who choose a 12-step alternative for addiction. Addictive Behaviors. 2020 Mar 1; 102:106143.

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BACKGROUND: Mutual-help alternatives for addiction are numerous, and research attests to the benefits of involvement in such alternatives. Yet, virtually nothing is known about affiliation patterns over time among 12-step alternatives. We investigated the patterns, correlates, and outcomes of transitions in affiliation (including changing groups and dropping out) within alternatives for alcohol problems. METHODS: We analyzed data from the Peer ALternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study, a longitudinal study comparing the nature and effectiveness of 12-step groups, WFS, LifeRing, and SMART (N? = 647). First, using all data, we compared affiliation patterns over time across 12-step and 12-step alternative members at baseline. Second, analyzing exclusively 12-step alternative members at baseline, we compared baseline characteristics and 6-month outcomes of those who changed and dropped out of (vs. retained) their primary groups at 6 months. RESULTS: While drop-out rates were low, and similar, across groups, members of the alternatives were more likely (vs. 12-step) to change groups at 6 months, and transitioned predominantly to 12-step. Further, among the 12-step alternatives, both changing groups and dropping out was associated with lower group cohesion and satisfaction. Meanwhile, in multivariate analyses of 6-month outcomes, changing (vs. retaining) groups robustly predicted lower cohesion, higher negative affect, and lower quality of life, whereas dropping out was associated with lower odds of alcohol abstinence. CONCLUSIONS: While dropping out is known to be risky, changing groups is more common among the 12-step alternatives, and connotes risk of future problems that may be partially explained by dissatisfaction with the new group (usually 12-step).

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