First off, Alcohol and substance abuse is an incredibly complicated subject and we at Ed Skeptics claim no authority or expertise in how to ameliorate the harm it causes to people. Please do not take advice on treatment or support from us, our aim in this Fact is only to point out some well documented issues with the AA model. Alcoholics Anonymous is the go-to treatment for alcohol abuse in most people's minds. It is often seen as the only treatment in movies, TV dramas and in literature, and its themes of anonymity, mentorship, strict sobriety and mutual support are familiar to most people. But how effective as a treatment is the 12-step program it offers?
There is no doubt that many people attribute AA as being instrumental in helping them recover from alcoholism and in turning their life around but equally there are many who have not been helped. The problem is that studies on the effectiveness have never been done by AA itself, only by academics from outside. The lack of official memberships or having in place a documented follow up process to measure outcomes makes it difficult to do. Studies that have been done though do not show any great success and the vast majority of non-mandated attendees stop attending after only a few weeks. Most studies show AA as being at best no better than other self-help programs and much worse than other scientifically designed therapies. As reported in Psychology Today 'Psychologists at the University of New Mexico led by William Miller tabulated every controlled study of alcoholism treatment they could find They concluded that the leading therapy was barely a therapy at all but a quick encounter between patient and health-care worker in an ordinary medical setting. The intervention is sometimes as brief as a doctor looking at the results of liver-function tests and telling a patient to cut down on their drinking. Many patients then decide to cut back—and do'.
AA was founded as a religious programme . They require admitting you are powerless, accepting that only a Higher Power can help you, turning your will and your life over to God, taking a moral inventory, admitting your wrongs, being ready to let God remove your shortcomings, making amends to those you have harmed, improving your conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation, and spreading the word. For instance in Step 11 of the 12-steps: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out'. There are many much more effective treatments for substance abuse than AA that offer advice, empowerment and support based on good scientific research in a secular setting. If you want to research further we strongly suggest you speak to a health-care professional.