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The pseudo-science of Alcoholics Anonymous: There’s a better way to treat addiction – Salon.com

March 24, 2014

Salon has an article which breaks one of the taboos when it comes to discussing addiction – the article questions the premises and value of 12-step programmes.

I have had a number of clients who have found 12-step programmes very helpful for addictions from alcohol to food. However, I have also had conversations with people who are deeply sceptical of some of the culture around Friends of Bill.

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.

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/23/the_pseudo_science_of_alcoholics_anonymous_theres_a_better_way_to_treat_addiction/?source=newsletter

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