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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2018;44(1):103-112. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2016.1249283. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

Changes in depression mediate the effects of AA attendance on alcohol use outcomes.

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a Department of Psychiatry , University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.
b Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addiction , University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.



Depression may contribute to increased drinking in individuals with alcohol use disorder. Although Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) attendance predicts drinking reductions, there is conflicting information regarding the intermediary role played by reductions in depression.


We explored whether AA attendance reduces depressive symptoms, the degree to which improvement in depression results in reductions in drinking, and in which subgroups these effects occur.


253 early AA affiliates (63% male) were recruited and assessed at baseline 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months. Depression was measured using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and was administered at baseline 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. AA attendance and alcohol use outcomes were obtained with the Form 90. Mediation analyses were performed at early (3, 6, and 9 months) and late (12, 18, and 24 months) follow-up to investigate the degree to which reductions in depression mediated the effect of AA attendance on drinking, controlling for concurrent drinking. In addition, a series of moderated mediation analyses were performed using baseline depression severity as a moderator.


At early follow-up, reductions in depression (6 months) mediated the effects of AA attendance (3 months) on later drinking (drinks per drinking day) (9 months) (b = -0.02, boot CI [-0.055, -0.0004]), controlling for drinking at 6 months. Baseline depression severity did not moderate the degree to which BDI mediated the effects of AA attendance on alcohol use (ps > .05).


These findings provide further evidence that depression reduction is a mechanism by which AA attendance leads to reductions in alcohol use. Improving depression may help reduce alcohol use in individuals with AUD, and AA attendance may be an effective way to achieve that goal.


12-step; alcohol use disorders; alcoholics anonymous; depression; negative affect

[Available on 2019-01-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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