The effects of sponsorship in 12-step treatment of injection drug users

Byron L. Crape, Carl A. Latkin, Alexandra S. Laris, Amy R. Knowlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What contributes to sustained abstinence from injection drug use by those who participate in community-based Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is not well understood. We know that sponsorship is a central element in these programs. To investigate the relationship between sponsorship and abstinence, we evaluated NA/AA sponsorship over a 1-year period in a longitudinal study of 500 former and current injection drug users in inner-city Baltimore recruited from the community-at-large, independent of treatment center affiliation. The findings indicated that having a sponsor in NA/AA for this population was not associated with any improvement in 1-year sustained abstinence rates than a non-sponsored group. However, being a sponsor over the same time period was strongly associated with substantial improvements in sustained abstinence rates for the sponsors, controlling for involvement with community organizations, NA/AA meeting attendance, marital status, employment, participation in drug and alcohol treatment centers and HIV status. Involvement in community organizations was also strongly associated with successful abstinence, controlling for the same variables. Of those participants involved with community organizations, more than half reported involvement in church activities. Our investigation suggests that, for NA/AA sponsors in this study population, providing direction and support to other addicts is associated with improved success in sustained abstinence for the sponsors but does little to improve the short-term success of the persons being sponsored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-301
Number of pages11
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2002


  • Abstinence
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Injection drug users
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Sponsorship
  • Twelve-step programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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