By Joe Gerstein, MD, FACP
We welcome the first scientific research showing that SMART Recovery and other mutual support groups can help people overcome severe cases of alcoholism – or alcohol use disorder (AUD) – as effectively as Alcoholics Anonymous. This finding is significant because the study tracked the same people using these groups over time, a 12-month period, making it a longitudinal analysis, and all the participants have an AUD.
These results are not surprising. They reaffirm scientifically what we know firsthand, having seen countless people recover from substance use disorders over the many years we’ve existed – as long as 43 years for Women for Sobriety and nearly a quarter century for SMART.
This research sends a powerful message to counselors, clinicians, physicians and public health advocates that people suffering from serious addictions can find help in many different groups, meetings and programs.
SMART Recovery alone now has 2,700 weekly meetings in 24 countries on all six major continents. These include 1,780 in North America, 630 in Europe and 280 in the Pacific Rim. People anywhere can attend online meetings hosted by SMART, LifeRing and Women for Sobriety.
Also noteworthy is that all three groups emphasize self-empowerment – helping people find and wield the power within themselves to sustain recovery as long as it takes to lead balanced and fulfilling lives free from the destructive effects of problematic addictive behavior.
We strongly encourage more addiction scientists to continue exploring the many pathways to recovery. We need to know in more detail how different groups support recovery. Science shows that simply attending support group meetings is a significant factor. We need research to help counselors match clients to certain group features, such as a science-based orientation or SMART’s 4-Point Program®.
Of course, we also need more studies with larger and randomized samples with control groups where possible to gain more definitive proof.
SMART leaders and our global network of more than 5,000 devoted volunteers, including professionals and trained meeting facilitators, stand ready to collaborate with scientific investigators in every way possible to advance and accelerate research into all recovery support models.
For full access to the statement provided by the researchers: “A longitudinal study of the comparative efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step groups for those with AUD,” published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment and conducted by Sarah E. Zemore et al., click here.