12-Step Sponsorship Associated with Positive Outcomes for Stimulant Users

  • Mutual support groups are free, readily available, and cost-effective resources for supporting long-term recovery from substance use disorders.
  • In particular, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, are popular and generally seen as an integral part of an international shift toward a chronic-care model of addiction treatment and recovery.

  • One frequently theorized mechanism for the efficacy of 12-step groups is social support, or the “fellowship” aspect, particularly “sponsorship,” in which a 12-step participating in long-term, stable recovery voluntarily serves as a role model and supportive guide to a fellow participant in earlier recovery.

    Previous studies on 12-step sponsorship have focused almost exclusively on Alcoholics Anonymous and individuals with alcohol use disorders. This secondary data analysis, however, explored predictors and outcomes of having a 12-step sponsor among individuals receiving treatment for stimulant use disorders, inclusive of four types of 12-step groups (Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous).

    The analysis used data from the CTN Stimulant Abuse Groups to Engage in 12-Step (STAGE-12) protocol (CTN-0031), a multisite randomized trial in which participants receiving treatment for stimulant use disorder (N=471, 59% women) were randomized into treatment as usual (TAU) or a 12-step facilitation (TSF) intervention (STAGE-12).

    Logistic regression analyses explored the extent to which participants obtained sponsors, including the extent to which treatment condition and other predictors (12-step experiences, expectations, and beliefs) were associated with having a sponsor.

    The relationship between end-of-treatment sponsorship and follow-up substance use outcomes was also tested.

    Results found that participants were more likely to have a sponsor at the end of treatment and 3-month follow-up, with the STAGE-12 condition having higher sponsorship rates.

    Twelve-step meeting attendance and literature reading during the treatment period predicted having a sponsor at the end of treatment. Sponsorship at the end of treatment predicted a higher likelihood of abstinence from stimulant user and having no drug-related problems at follow-up.

    Conclusions: This study extends previous research on sponsorship, which has mostly focused on alcohol use disorders, by indicating that sponsorship is associated with positive outcomes for those seeking treatment from stimulant use disorders. It also suggests that sponsorship rates can be improved for those seeking treatment from stimulant use disorders through a short-term TSF intervention.

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    Funding for this Addiction Science Made Easy project is provided by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center National Office, under the cooperative agreement from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment of SAMHSA.

    Articles were written based on the following published research:

    Wendt DC, et al. Predictors and Outcomes of Twelve-Step Sponsorship of Stimulant Users: Secondary Analyses of a Multisite Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 2017;78:287-295.

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