New Nationwide Report Reveals that 5 Million People Participate in Self-Help Groups Each Year


New data indicate that 2.3 million people who participate in self-help groups for alcohol or illicit drug use currently abstain from use of these substances. Based on a nationwide survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the report offers other data highlighting the use and benefits of these groups.

Among the report’s notable findings:

  • An annual average of 5 million persons aged 12 or older attended a self-help group in the past year because of their use of alcohol or illicit drugs
  • 45.3 percent attended a group because of their alcohol use only and 21.8 percent attended a group because of their illicit drug use only, while 33.0 percent attended a group because of their use of both alcohol and illicit drugs
  • 45.1 percent of past year self-help group participants did not use alcohol or illicit drugs in the past month
  • Almost one third (32.7 percent) of individuals who attended a self-help group for their substance use during the past year also received specialty treatment for substance abuse in the past year. Specialty treatment refers to substance abuse treatment received at a hospital as an inpatient, at a rehabilitation facility (either inpatient or outpatient), or at a mental health center
“This report adds to the substantial body of research indicating that participation in self-help groups can help support people battling substance abuse problems,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “Self-help groups often are used in conjunction with specialty treatment and to support individuals seeking help or sustaining their recovery.”

Findings for Participation in Self-Help Groups for Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use: 2006 and 2007, are drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a nationwide survey of 67,500 respondents each year.  This report focused on questions asked of persons aged 12 and older about their participation in a self-help group for substance use (i.e., alcohol use, illicit drug use, or both).

The full report is available here. Copies may be obtained free of charge by calling SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). Request inventory number SMA 08-4333.  For related publications and information, visit .

SAMHSA November 2008 Release

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