AA Meetings - The Impact of the Pandemic on Alcohol Addiction

ccording to the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 14 million adults in the US had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2019. AUD is the inability to stop consuming alcohol despite the negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing. 

Since then, the world has experienced a global pandemic which has increased the problem further. One study stated that 29% of respondents were consuming more alcoholic drinks per day by April 2020 than they were in February 2020. 

Although the pandemic has increased alcohol dependency amongst Americans, it has given rise to online support. With the stay-at-home orders came the increased use of online meeting software. Now, more than ever, people can connect virtually. Those who had not done so before have embraced the opportunity to meet online.

One support service that has taken advantage of the shift towards online meetings is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is the largest and oldest alcohol support group with centers across the globe. It claims to have 2.1 million members, of which 1.3 million are US residents. Following a 12-step program, recovered alcoholics use their personal experience to help others through self-organized AA meetings.

Taking AA meetings online 

Traditionally AA meetings have taken place in groups face-to-face. With stay-at-home orders in force, it was no longer possible to meet in person. Members expressed concern about being unable to access the support that they needed. Fearing relapses, many of the existing AA meetings were taken online. By retaining this consistency, many people have found that they have remained alcohol-free. In doing so, they have bucked the national trend towards drinking more alcohol during the pandemic.

Another advantage of online AA meetings has been accessibility for those who do not want to attend meetings in person. Group AA meetings can be overwhelming for those suffering from social anxiety. This can prevent them from seeking and committing to the help that they need. Additionally, whilst AA meetings are held worldwide, they cannot be held everywhere. For some, it is not geographically or financially possible to attend meetings in person. Similarly, work and family commitments can prevent attendance at scheduled meetings. Online meetings offer no travel time or costs and more flexible scheduling.

The future of AA meetings

As with all addiction therapy, there is no one solution for everyone. While online AA meetings are the perfect solution for some, others prefer to meet in person. Some people require the accountability of meeting personally to commit to their goals. As restrictions have eased there has been a resurgence in face-to-face meetings but online meetings continue.

Alcohol addiction is a common condition and support must be easily available for those that need it. Through the removal of obstacles, people are encouraged to seek the help that they need. Online AA meetings offer increased accessibility and inclusivity for everyone. They are an integral part of the future of alcohol addiction therapy. 

Photo by Christian Fridell from Pexels

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