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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • Alcoholics Anonymous;
  • Incarceration;
  • Prison;
  • Women

Background:  The number of women incarcerated within the United States has risen dramatically in recent decades, and high rates of alcohol problems are evident among this population. Although little is known about the patterns of help utilization and efficacy for alcohol problems, preliminary evidence suggests that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a widely available resource for this population.

Methods:  Data were collected as part of a study evaluating the effect of a brief intervention to reduce alcohol use among hazardously drinking (i.e., score of 8 or above on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test or 4 or more drinks at a time on at least 3 days in prior 3 months) incarcerated women. The current study characterized demographic, clinical, and previous AA attendance variables associated with AA attendance in the 6 months following incarceration. Associations between frequency of AA attendance and drinking outcomes following incarceration were also evaluated.

Results:  Among the 224 participants who provided data about AA attendance, 54% reported some AA attendance during the follow-up assessment period. AA attendance in the year prior to study entry (OR = 4.02; 95% CI: 3.32 to 4.71) and greater baseline consequences of alcohol use (OR = 2.09; 95% CI: 1.73 to 2.44) were associated with increased odds of higher frequency of AA attendance following incarceration. Weekly or greater AA attendance was associated with reductions in negative drinking consequences (B = −0.45; p < 0.01) and frequency of drinking days (B = −0.28; p < 0.01) following incarceration.

Conclusions:  Findings from this study suggest that AA is frequently utilized by hazardously drinking women following incarceration. Alcohol outcomes may be enhanced by AA attendance at a weekly or greater frequency is associated with better alcohol outcomes relative to lower levels of AA attendance. Evaluation of clinical guidelines for prescribing AA attendance for incarcerated women remains a task for future research.