Washington Post Article Challenges AA Approach


recent article in the Washington Post will be of interest to many here. It takes AA to task for being ineffective and sees no real purpose for the entire Rehab industry. The author does accept the ‘illness’ concept and is a University of Virginia psychiatrist with ties to the pharmaceutical industry. But he is largely dismissive of the 12-step approach and cites some revealing studies. See it here. The article starts by recounting the news that Lindsay Lohan is beginning her 4th stint in rehab. It goes on to  discuss the lack of evidence that rehab, and the whole 12-step approach,  provides any statistically verifiable success. The author writes, “We have little indication that this treatment is effective. When an alcoholic goes to rehab but does not recover, it is he who is said to have failed. But it is rehab that is failing alcoholics.”

The article goes on to cite some of the few reasonably trustworthy statistics that exist — that 25% or so of addicts successfully quit entirely on their own, contrary to the ‘powerless’ paradigm. And an old but oft-cited study finding only 5% of those who start AA are still involved a year later. Another study found AA no more effective than those based on different approaches than the 12-step model, and that “almost all of the effect of treatment was achieved after attending a single session. In other words, it was the initial decision to try to get better that determined a person’s chances of succeeding; what followed made little difference.”

Here’s another very important quote from the article: “Although AA doubtless helps some people, it is not magic. I have seen, in my work with alcoholics, how its philosophy can be harmful to patients who chronically relapse: AA holds that, once a person starts to slip, he or she is powerless to stop. The stronger an alcoholic’s belief in this perspective, the longer and more damaging relapses can be.”

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