Salud Mental

Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous’ approach to hospitalized patients


Alejandro Sánchez Solís
Claudia Lucy Saucedo Ramos
Sara García Silberman


Background. The percentage of alcohol dependents who attend self-help groups increased from 33.4% in 2008 to 43.7% in 2011 according to the National Surveys of Addictions. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and their Twelve Steps program represent the main model for self-help in Mexico. The 12th Step or carrying the message is a common strategy to attract new members into AA groups and it is done frequently at hospital wards.

Objective. To describe the activity of carrying the message in a hospital context in order to identify the meanings involved and how AA members relate to the patients.

Method. An ethnographic approach was used to observe the activity of nine AA’s members in a third level hospital in Mexico City over a ten-month period. The activity system model was used for data organization and interpretation.

Results. The carrying the message activity consists of six core moments:

1. Self-introduction of the recovering alcoholic; 2. Defining alcoholism as an incurable disease; 3. AA’s Twelve Steps as an alternative; 4. Self-diagnosis; 5. Ask about consumption; 6. Invitation to hospital AA’s group meetings. The AA’s member uses personal experience’s stories to convey AA vision about alcoholism and recovering.

Discussion and conclusion. enial and to promote disease acceptance. Furthermore, the hospital setting itself legitimizes the AA presence and their Twelve Steps. Carrying the message presents a strategy to diminish stigma related to alcohol dependency which is one of the main obstacles for seeking help.

Alcohol dependence, hospitals, Alcoholics Anonymous, carrying the message