How Reddit is Helping People With Alcoholism
The r/stopdrinking subreddit has seen enormous growth in recent years.
Reddit’s generally known as the internet’s home for the most random videos, links, and discussions all ruled by a voting system. On top of all this, it has also built various communities, including one helping people kick the booze. The subreddit r/stopdrinking has become a place where users can share stories, struggles, and progress updates on their sobriety.
A new study published on Recovery.org chronicles the growth of the subreddit and draws some significant data from the subreddit’s user base. Researchers analyzed more than 369,000 comments posted on the subreddit in the course of a single year (2015), with the goal of finding common themes, phrases, and mentions, as well as developing a profile of the community’s progress toward sobriety on the whole.
According to the study, r/stopdrinking grew from 9,624 members in 2013 to 47,703 in September 2016. That increase places it within the top 1,500 subreddits — it’s no small feat, considering Reddit is home to over 850,000 subreddits in total. And that membership number is still rising. As of March 2017, r/stopdrinking is sporting just over 60,000 members and is only continuing to expand.
Those big numbers haven’t been for naught. The study, which was initially conducted at a time when the subreddit had about 33,647 members, found that participation in the community has impacted the lives of users.
Of the 33,647 users, the researchers found that 23 percent — or 7,985 people — are both actively commenting and electing to “display their accumulated days without alcohol.” Between them, they had 2,893,376 days sober. The Recovery.org study was also quick to input a few sobering facts about what the subreddit’s numbers mean for the wider reality of alcoholism.
“Although these numbers are impressive, reality reflects an even greater struggle,” the study explains. “According to Medscape.com, less than 20 percent of people in recovery for alcoholism remain sober for a full year. At the two-year mark, the relapse rate is 40 percent, and only after five years are recovering alcoholics likely to remain sober.”
Still, the community being built by r/stopdrinking is encouraging. Interactions between members in the comments section are widely positive, with phrases such as “stay sober,” “stay strong,” and “thank you for sharing” appearing with great frequency.
That r/stopdrinking would be such a popular and effective support network for recovering alcoholics should come as no surprise. Experts like John Kelly, a researcher of addiction at Harvard Medical School, have identified some key aspects of the subreddit that make it an attractive place to seek help. “It’s the fellowship factor that’s effective,” Kelly told The Washington Post. “There’s accountability and monitoring over time. There’s 24/7 support. It’s incredibly valuable, especially early on.”
The findings of the Recovery.org study certainly corroborate that analysis. The researchers wrote that r/stopdrinking “is a safe place for those battling an invisible disease. The beauty of it all? No one has to fight it alone.”
The study’s publication also comes on the heels of an announcement by Facebook that it will be employing artificial intelligence to help prevent suicides. Much like r/stopdrinking, it’s another powerful recognition of the ability of accessible, online interaction to produce a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives.