Scientifically Supported Recovery

Posted on July 16, 2013

Clinical Trial of SMART Recovery’s Effectiveness


ResearchersThere have been many success stories during the 19-year history of SMART Recovery. The most recent of these is scientific evidence that supports SMART’s effectiveness in dealing with alcohol problems.

Like AA, SMART Recovery provides free mutual help for anyone desiring to abstain from alcohol. However, SMART Recovery’s approach, based on cognitive-behavior therapy tools, is quite different from that of AA. Many have questioned whether this type of addiction recovery alternative is helpful.

To answer this question, a randomized clinical trial, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recruited 189 heavy drinkers who were new to SMART Recovery. A web app, Overcoming Addictions (OA), based on the SMART Recovery 4-Point Program®, was created and the 189 heavy drinkers who were new to SMART were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) use the OA web app alone; 2) use the OA web app, plus attend SMART Recovery meetings, or 3) attend SMART Recovery meetings only. “Significant others” were interviewed to verify the participant’s self-report at baseline and at follow-up.

Researchers assessed the percentage of days abstinent and the amount of negative alcohol/drug consequences in the three months prior to enrollment in the study and at follow-up. After three months, participants in all groups increased their percentage of days abstinent from 44% to 72%, and significantly reduced their negative alcohol/drug consequences. There were no significant differences between groups. Based on the results obtained with other recovery approaches, these results are clinically significant. Individuals who find the SMART Recovery approach appealing can try it with confidence.

    “I am feeling all kinds of freedom that I had not experienced in the past. I feel like I am growing and stretching and learning. There has been a lot of internal progress, and I am so grateful for my time at SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery Online really is a home base for me — my touchstone. Community meetings have been beneficial to me, as well. I had some good long lapses in the past, but I have always stayed in touch online. And I’ve had some darn good successes, too — I’m now almost 4 years sober and continuing to grow.” Dee, SMART Volunteer

The report of the clinical trial has just been published online at the open access Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The Overcoming Addictions web app will be available to the public in the fall of 2013, via the SMART Recovery website.

About the study: The study was conducted by the Research Division of Behavior Therapy Associates, LLC.