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Updated 10:00 AM April 10, 2006
 

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  Research
Cell phones aid recovery process for AA members

Cell phones are becoming valuable tools for recovering alcoholics to stay sober, new research shows.

And while the study of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members found cell phones helpful in the recovery process, in-person interaction still was predominant for recovery-related communication since emphasis is placed on regular attendance at group meetings.

"It is clear from these data that mobile phone use has not replaced face-to-face or landline telephone interaction in these recovery support networks, but rather it provides an important supplemental means for connecting with others in the program," says Scott Campbell, an assistant professor and Pohs Fellow of Telecommunications in the Department of Communication Studies. His co-author was Michael Kelley, an associate professor of psychology at Hawaii Pacific University.

The study, which appears in the May issue of the Journal of Applied Communication Research, explored the role of cell phones within social networks of AA members.

A sample of 123 cell phone owners and non-owners were asked their perceptions and uses of the technology.

Survey participants were asked about the extent they used cell phones and other communication channels for recovery purposes. Face-to-face communication and cell phone use came out on top, followed by use of the landline telephone and the Internet.

Most cell phone owners in the study—89 percent—said the technology was helpful in the recovery process. The participants especially used the cell phone for expressive purposes, such as talking about personal issues, but also found it very helpful for instrumental purposes, such as making arrangements with others for recovery-related meetings, the research showed.

Furthermore, participants reported that more than two-thirds of their total cell phone use involved recovery-related communication. The technology is ideal because individuals can reach one another at times and places where access previously was not possible. "They are taking advantage of these relatively new opportunities in ways that are useful to both their own recovery and the recovery of others," the authors say.

The study included responses from a minority segment of AA members who did not own cell phones—mostly due to financial reasons—but they still believed the technology would be a useful resource for addiction recovery.

The researchers say the findings indicate cell phones might be helpful tools for other recovery-related support networks, not just AA. Additional research is needed, however, to understand the negative consequences of cell phone ownership and use in addiction recovery, Campbell and Kelley warn.

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