There’s Got to Be a Better Way to Treat Addiction

by Rachel Baker on April 7, 2014

Sadly, Alcholics Anonymous is as American as baseball, apple pie and 4th of July picnics. Seriously, have you ever looked to find a meeting place? AA/NA meeting places are everywhere; and people who attend AA meetings or NA meetings are also everywhere. But…studies show the meetings have an incredibly low success rate.

And frankly, all the literature gives the impression that the progam never fails, the individual does. How is this helpful to the self-esteem of the broken person?

Salon.com has an excerpt from “The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry” by Lance Dodes, M.D., and Zachary Dodes (Copyright 2014. Excerpted with permission by Beacon Press) on their site about the psuedo-science of alcholics anonymous.

Its worth reading, and more than just reading, its worth pondering thoughtfully.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a part of our nation’s fabric. In the seventy-six years since AA was created, 12-step programs have expanded to include over three hundred different organizations, focusing on such diverse issues as smoking, shoplifting, social phobia, debt, recovery from incest, even vulgarity. All told, more than five million people recite the Serenity Prayer at meetings across the United States every year.

Twelve-step programs hold a privileged place in our culture as well. The legions of “anonymous” members who comprise these groups are helped in their proselytizing mission by TV shows such as “Intervention” (now canceled), which preaches the gospel of recovery. “Going to rehab” is likewise a common refrain in music and film, where it is almost always uncritically presented as the one true hope for beating addiction. AA and rehab have even been codified into our legal system: court-mandated attendance, which began in the late 1980s, is today a staple of drug-crime policy. Every year, our state and federal governments spend over $15 billion on substance-abuse treatment for addicts, the vast majority of which are based on 12-step programs. There is only one problem: these programs almost always fail.

Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. In 2006, one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a review of the many studies conducted between 1966 and 2005 and reached a stunning conclusion: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” in treating alcoholism. This group reached the same conclusion about professional AA-oriented treatment (12-step facilitation therapy, or TSF), which is the core of virtually every alcoholism-rehabilitation program in the country.

Many people greet this finding with open hostility. After all, walk down any street in any city and you are likely to run into a dozen people who swear by AA—either from personal experience or because they know someone whose life was saved by the program. Even people who have no experience with AA may still have heard that it works or protest that 5 to 10 percent is a significant number when we’re talking about millions of people. So AA isn’t perfect, runs this thread of reasoning. Have you got anything better?

Read the whole article here:
http://www.salon.com/2014/03/23/the_pseudo_science_of_alcoholics_anonymous_theres_a_better_way_to_treat_addiction/

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