The failure of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

March 24, 2014 | By | Reply More

What would it seem like if ONLY those who successfully completed a program were featured in the media? What would we think about a school where 85 out of 100 students flunked, but only the graduates showed up to say how good the program was? That is the starting point for Dr. Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes’ article in Salon: “The pseudo-science of Alcoholics Anonymous: There’s a better way to treat addiction.”

Rehab owns a special place in the American imagination. Our nation invented the “Cadillac” rehab, manifested in such widely celebrated brand names as Hazelden, Sierra Tucson, and the Betty Ford Center. . . . The fact that they are all extraordinarily expensive is almost beside the point: these rehabs are fighting the good fight, and they deserve every penny we’ve got. Unfortunately, nearly all these programs use an adaptation of the same AA approach that has been shown repeatedly to be highly ineffective. Where they deviate from traditional AA dogma is actually more alarming: many top rehab programs include extra features such as horseback riding, Reiki massage, and “adventure therapy” to help their clients exorcise the demons of addiction. . . . Why do we tolerate this industry? One reason may sound familiar: in rehab, one feels that one is doing something, taking on a life-changing intervention whose exorbitant expense ironically reinforces the impression that epochal changes must be just around the corner.

Who is studying the effectiveness of these programs? Not the programs themselves or, at least, they are not making their data open. That makes these authors suspicious:

Efforts by journalists to solicit data from rehabs have also been met with resistance, making an independent audit of their results almost impossible and leading to the inevitable conclusion that the rest of the programs either don’t study their own outcomes or refuse to publish what they find.

What is the solution? Rather than preach to addicts about a “Higher Power,” the authors suggest that they need something far more personally empowering: sophisticated self-awareness.”

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Category: Addictions, Health

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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