Aims To construct Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) attendance, sponsorship and abstinence latent class trajectories to test the added benefit of having a sponsor above the benefits of attendance in predicting abstinence over time.
Design Prospective with 1-, 3-, 5- and 7-year follow-ups.
Setting and participants Alcoholic-dependent individuals from two probability samples, one from representative public and private treatment programs and another from the general population (n = 495).
Findings Individuals in the low attendance class (four classes identified) were less likely than those in the high, descending and medium attendance classes to be in high (versus low) abstinence class (three classes identified). No differences were found between the other attendance classes as related to abstinence class membership. Overall, being in the high sponsor class (three classes identified) predicted better abstinence outcomes than being in either of two other classes (descending and low), independent of attendance class effects. Although declining sponsor involvement was associated with greater likelihood of high abstinence than low sponsor involvement, being in the descending sponsor class also increased the odds of being in the descending abstinence class.
Conclusions Any pattern of Alcoholics Anonymous attendance, even if it declines or is never high for a particular 12-month period, is better than little or no attendance in terms of abstinence. Greater initial attendance carries added value. There is a benefit for maintaining a sponsor over time above that found for attendance.