Journal Article

Maintenance of Abstinence in Self-Help Groups

Bertrand Nalpas and Isabelle Boulze-Launay

in Alcohol and Alcoholism

Published on behalf of The Medical Council on Alcohol

Volume 53, issue 1, pages 89-94
Published in print January 2018 | ISSN: 0735-0414
Published online October 2017 | e-ISSN: 1464-3502 | DOI:
Maintenance of Abstinence in Self-Help Groups

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To analyse abstinence rates 12 months after alcohol cessation in a sample of French subjects participating in support group meetings.


The project was co-designed with support group representatives, and co-investigator roles were delegated to meeting managers. Subjects who had stopped drinking for <3 months were included. An independent investigator evaluated alcohol intake and group attendance every 3 months using a questionnaire, and time to first drink was analysed using survival curves.


Overall, 145 participants were included, mean age 47 years. At 1 year, 43% of the 119 who could be evaluated were abstinent. Relapse rates did not differ by gender, withdrawal method, previous stays in a rehabilitation unit or time of first contact with the self-help association. However, participants receiving specialist medical and/or psychological support in addition to attending group meetings had a significantly lower abstinence rate than those who only attended group meetings, although their attendance at group meetings was similar.


Self-help associations can participate in rigorous scientific studies. The present results identified a subgroup of individuals with alcohol problems who attended self-help groups, but not traditional care pathways. Having additional specialist support was not associated with better outcome.

Journal Article.  3851 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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