Alcoholics Anonymous is arguably the best-known organization for helping people who have an alcohol use disorder. Founded in the 1930s, AA was established as an alternative to the available treatments for alcohol abuse at the time. Most of these were geared toward helping people detox but offered no follow-up support.

AA is a peer-driven organization in which people with an alcohol use disorder undertake a 12-step program. The program’s principles require that members surrender to a higher power to help them get control of their drinking and their lives.

When people join AA, which is free, they undertake a moral evaluation of themselves. Members must admit their weaknesses and faults to a higher power, to themselves and to another human. Reparation is another part of the process. Members must attempt to make amends to those who have been affected by their alcohol abuse.


AA is open to anyone who has a problem with drinking, regardless of age, social status, sex or creed. There are AA meetings throughout the nation, not just in major centers of population but also in small communities.

In Asheville, North Carolina, there are more than 40 different groups that hold regular meetings. Meetings take place throughout the day, seven days a week. You can find meetings as early as 7:00 a.m. or as late as 10:00 p.m.

What Happens at Meetings?

Meetings may have different formats. One common thread to all meetings is that people share the difficulties that alcohol has caused in their lives and how they worked through it. However, no member is required to reveal anything about themselves; it is perfectly acceptable to just come and listen.

Anonymity is a core principle of AA. If you attend a meeting, you are not asked for any personal details, not even your name. AA members do not reveal any information to anybody about other attendees, and the group does not keep any attendance records.

If you have a problem with alcohol and think Alcoholics Anonymous may be able to help you, you can attend a meeting without obligation. If you do not return, nobody is going to contact you for reasons why, or to persuade you to come back.

Effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous

A report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information included figures from one study conducted using male Veterans Administration inpatients. This study revealed that abstinence rates of one year were just below 50 percent for those who attended AA meetings.2 This compared to less than 25 percent for those who did not join AA.

Alcoholics Anonymous does not make it compulsory for people to attend meetings, but they recommend that people do so regularly. The NCBI report demonstrated that there is a correlation between regular attendance and continued abstinence. Those who attend most frequently tend to remain abstinent longer than those who are less frequent attendees.