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Survey respondents in general reported preferring face-to-face meetings, but there was an increase in online use that corresponded with a moderate drop in in-person meeting attendance.

ALEX SEREBRYAKOV

An international survey has found that face-to-face meetings are more effective than online groups for those trying to curb alcohol abuse – but use of web-based sobriety support sites is continuing to grow.

The study by researchers at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif., recruited 196 adults with at least a year of sobriety through Facebook and other social media platforms.

Participants completed a survey to measure their behaviours and opinions regarding face-to-face meetings such as those conducted by Alcoholics Anonymous versus online sobriety support systems.

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Respondents in general reported preferring face-to-face meetings, but there was an increase in online use that corresponded with a moderate drop in in-person meeting attendance.

Lead researcher Don Grant says the survey found individuals who attended more in-person meetings had greater success in achieving and maintaining sobriety.

The study is being presented Monday at the American Psychological Association's annual convention in Toronto.

Grant, a psychologist and addiction counsellor, says that although the data don't yet show a major shift from meetings to online support groups, they do suggest a move in that direction.

It's important to understand what that could mean for people seeking help for alcohol abuse, he says.

"With more and more people engaging in online sobriety support, the recovering community and professionals alike wonder what impact these modern platforms could have on both the future of Alcoholics Anonymous and its membership," Grant said.

"When comparing the short amount of time online sobriety support has even been accessible to the number of those participants currently engaging with it, the likelihood that its popularity will only grow seems probable."

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