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Young Adults Find Effective Recovery Support in 12 Steps Meetings with Older Adults

Because so many young adults use drugs or alcohol young people sometimes have trouble forging sober social support networks after treatment. AA and NA can provide this sober support, but many groups are comprised of middle aged adults. A new research study suggests that this age gap does not matter and that 12 steps meetings do offer younger adults effective social support.

Young adults coming out of treatment often have a tough time finding sober social support due to high rates of drug and alcohol use among people in this age bracket.

So can young adults find effective recovery support from AA and NA groups comprised largely of middle aged and older adults?

That’s what researchers at the Centre for Addiction Medicine at Harvard Medical School wanted to know, and to find out they followed 300 young adult (aged 18 to 24) residential program graduates for a full year post treatment.

The results:

  • The average subject attended 3 AA or NA meetings a week at 3 months post treatment and 1 meeting a week at a year post treatment.
  • Even after controlling for variables such as motivation etc., subjects who attended the most meetings over the year had the highest numbers of abstinent days
  • Subjects who became actively involved, such as by speaking at meetings, were the most likely to stay sober.


Lead author John F. Kelly commented on the importance of 12 step resources for young adults, noting, “Our study shows that Twelve Step community resources, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide local, accessible and cost-effective recovery resources for young adults during a stage in life when such support is rare.”

Read the full study results in Drug and Alcohol Dependence

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