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Alcoholics Anonymous and Anger

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a program designed to help alcoholics overcome an addiction to alcohol and heal other areas of life that contribute to an alcohol addiction. One of the many ways it addresses problems associated with alcohol abuse is through tackling anger issues.

Unresolved anger is often considered a trigger for unhealthy decisions related to alcohol, and often dealing with the root of the anger can help AA participants lead healthier lives. But if anger is not addressed, it may lead to a continuing struggle for alcoholics.

Anger is often understood as a trigger for relapse in alcoholics. AA literature indicates that addressing anger issues is critical for recovery, but it has not been fully investigated scientifically. A recent study led by John F. Kelly examined whether AA’s success is due in part to reducing anger.

The researchers used lagged, controlled hierarchical linear modeling analyses to determine whether AA participation mobilized changes in anger. The impact of such changes on AA-related benefit was also examined.

The study involved 1,706 alcohol-dependent adults who were receiving treatment in a clinical trial setting. The participants were assessed at baseline and at 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 months.

The results of the study show that there were significantly higher levels of anger among those in the AA program when compared with the general population (98th percentile). The anger levels of the participants decreased over the 15-month study period but remained high when compared with general levels (89th percentile).

Participation in AA was positively associated with better alcohol choices, and higher levels of anger were associated with heavier drinking. However, attendance at AA meetings was not related to anger reduction.

The results of the study suggest that anger is not a mediator for alcohol abuse, but there was a strong connection between AA’s focus on anger and the findings of the study. Anger does appear to be a strong predictor for relapse and heavy alcohol consumption.

Though there may have been factors relating to methodology that contributed to the findings showing no association between AA and anger, the findings do indicate that AA participation alone does not specifically alleviate the suffering and alcohol-related risks associated with anger.

Understanding anger issues and how they contribute to alcohol abuse is important for organizations like AA to help alcoholics reduce their struggle with relapse. While this study indicates that anger is not significantly reduced due to AA participation, program organizers may be able to utilize the new research to make anger management in AA more effective for alcoholics.