Effectiveness of Online Public Forums for Recovering Addicts

Man using tablet for Time Management in Addiction Recovery

Online Public Forums are becoming more popular for recovering addicts. Forums typically have global members from all stages of the addiction process, who can provide useful guidance and information. Forums can be helpful in social interaction for those in recovery who can oftentimes feel isolated or lonely after treatment.

What Online Forums Are Available?

There are many popular recovery online forums. First, there is the Sober Recovery Forum [1]. It is one of the most popular online communities and offers support for both alcohol and drug problems.

There is also a section where family members of addicts can get help and advice. There is a discussion forum and live chat room, which can be helpful for people who need immediate help or information quickly.

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Secondly is We Quit Drinking which is an open forum that is not affiliated with one particular recovery philosophy. Members have used various different methods to achieve sobriety. This is a good resource for anyone looking for treatment options. Members are typically supportive and welcoming to newcomers.

Another resource is Cyber Recovery Forums. Members tend to come from all stages of recovery and family members are welcome. Besides alcohol and drug support there is also a section for eating disorders. e-AA Group is another forum for members of Alcoholic Anonymous to gather on the web.

There is a significant amount of information that is available for those wanting to learn about the 12 step process. Members of Narcotics Anonymous can utilize NA Chatroom. Besides online chats there are online scheduled meetings.

Online forums and discussion boards give addicts a chance to talk with other people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. One benefit to online forums is that there is no time restriction so if a member is having difficulty with cravings or triggers at anytime night or day they can find support in these open forums [2].

Man working on the computerEach forum is different, depending on the focus of addiction and population, but members can talk to each other and support each other.

Online support meetings are also helpful because they can provide a laidback environment and individuals can sign in and out as needed.

Some sites do offer more structured support meetings and can view videos of in person meetings. The goal of the sites is to bring 12 step meetings within reach to people who need them who may be house bound, in areas where there is no face-to-face meetings, or are unable to drive.

Gaining increased popularity are YouTube videos that provide support for recovering addicts and families. Many facilities have videos posted that can explain therapeutic recovery techniques, and education on addiction.

Social networking is able to offer support, advice, and information among the recovery process, but it cannot provide face-to-face interaction which is important for recovering addicts to receive.

Effectiveness of Online Public Forums for Recovering Addicts is a site called Stopdrinking. It is a thriving online community and possibly a new area for addiction treatment.

It is run entirely by volunteers, who are typically recovering alcoholics. With a community of over 32,000, members say it is their sole support group and visit multiple times per month. A majority use the site to help combat alcoholism, and its urges, more so than counseling, rehab or peer-recovery groups [3].

According to John Kelly, an addiction researcher at Harvard Medical School, the fellowship is effective and the accountability and monitoring overtime. There is 24/7 support and positivity that is especially valuable early on in recovery.

There is a daily check-in offered through StopDrinking and members can affirm their sobriety through this forum. They can earn badges by one of the forums 2 moderators, which celebrate the days or weeks since a user’s last drink [3].

Another popular part of this online forum is a virtual book club and move night out that can help individuals adjust to sober social schedules. In recovery forums there are various options for preference in theme, religious or not, and focus of recovery setting. It is important to look at various forums before deciding which is right for you.

Proper Netiquette for Online Recovery Forums

Netiquette for Online Recovery Forums is a resource for individuals who want to know the proper etiquette when using the forums. First, not using all caps when posting as it is equivalent to shouting and can come across as angry or rude in discussion boards or posts.

Man with smartphone

Trolling is also not good netiquette and involves posting inflammatory remarks in hopes that others will engage in the debate. The goal of trolling is to cause disharmony in forums. Some members within a forum will hijack a thread by derailing the conversation.

It delays or prevents the original information from being posted. Typically the proper netiquette is to talk separately on a new thread if it is of different information than originally posted.

Before posting, it is good to do a search of any threads that may be relevant to what information you are wanting. Regular members may grow tiresome of new threads that appear relating to same subject matter. This keeps from the same information being repeated over and over.

Another point is to politely disagree with another point of view, but it is not OK to attack a person who has provided the view on a online forum. Personal attacks are called flaming, and can get posters banned from the site.

It is also not proper to criticize someone’s grammar and spelling in the forum sites and new members are expected to read the terms of service prior to posting. It is also important to remember that Posters respect the philosophy of the forum they are participating.

What are the Effects on Individual Use

In research on the effects of online interaction, it looks at the effect it has on users. Anonymous usership is highly attractive to the user of online forums. They can feel more free to share thoughts and feelings as their identity is hidden.

In research on face-to-face settings, researchers have demonstrated those who communicate more, show close supportive relationships, are less stressed, happier and psychologically healthier compared to those who have fewer close relationships, social resources, and support tend to feel more lonely, depressed, and psychologically less well [5].

Other research argues that online interaction causes a reduction in well-being because it disrupts face-to-face interaction. In a two year study that looked at families who did not have Internet at the beginning of the study, were given a computer, internet, and email showed that stress, depression, and loneliness were worsened by internet use.

In further research, face-to-face research has shown to decrease dropout rate, and increase students sense of belonging and well-being in academic settings and have also been shown in members of virtual communities.

Research has therefore shown both positive and negative effects on users well-being. Individual level and group identification has been linked to health and wellbeing in terms of effective coping with situational stressors [5].

Another benefit to online forums is reducing the stigma of addiction. Online forums can create a sense of community that they might not get in day-to-day interactions.

While forums can be a great aide in one’s drug addiction recovery, a person still needs to seek the professional help from a drug and alcohol treatment program.

In conclusion, online forums can provide effective social support for subscribers. It provides a 24/7 support system, sobriety commitment, educational videos, and a wealth of knowledge for those looking for alternative to face-to-face meetings.


Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] http://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/online-recovery-forums/
[2] https://www.theriversource.org/blog/the-benefits-of-social-networking-in-addiction-recovery/
[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/01/05/the-surprising-internet-forum-some-alcoholics-are-choosing-over-aa/?utm_term=.a5752eba504a
[4] http://rehab-international.org/blog/internet-spreading-hope-addiction-recovery
[5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321500268X

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published May 7, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 3, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.