Health care costs drop if adolescent substance abusers use 12-step programs

A recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, shows that the use of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, by adolescents with a history of drug and alcohol abuse not only reduces the risk of relapse but also leads to lower health care costs.

The study followed 403 participants between 13 and 18 years old enrolled in Kaiser Permanente alcohol and drug treatment programs in northern California and followed their progress over seven years. Past research has shown that adolescents with drug and alcohol problems are at risk for a number of negative outcomes, including poor academic performance, violence, depression and suicide, and chronic medical conditions such as asthma.

According to Dr. Marlon Mundt, assistant professor of family medicine, for each 12-step meeting attended, medical costs were reduced by an estimated 4.7 percent or $145 per year for hospital inpatient days, psychiatric visits, and alcohol and drug treatment. “Our findings suggest that in addition to providing support for their sobriety, 12-step participation may also help adolescents meet their physical and mental health recovery needs by supplementing formal medical and psychiatric services,” said Mundt. “However, while 12-step participation may be an important complement to formal treatment, it should not be considered a substitute for needed formal psychiatric or alcohol and drug rehabilitation services, simply on the basis of cost.”

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 

Adolescent Counseling Service’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT) Program includes in its treatment  plan a weekly AA meeting. The AA meeting, held at the ACS offices, is run by teen peers who have struggled with addiction and can provide insight and support to the teens who are currently in the ASAT program.

For more information about ACS’ Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT) Program you can go to the ACS’ website or call Connie Mayer at 650.424.0852 ext 104.

A link to the full article this blog piece referenced can be found here.

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