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"The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous"

'The Atlantic' has again pulled a rabbit out the hut with this investigation by Gabrielle Glaser into the long revered ( and dare I say it, sacrosanct) Alcoholics Anonymous organisation. And not before time!

The article will have strong resonance here where doubt about the effectiveness of AA's methods have existed for a long time, but regardless, courts continue to deal with alcohol related crime by compulsory reference to its facilities. It is almost as if it has had a protected position in our community in a 'criticism-free' zone. 

I have no personal knowledge of the organisation or its methods, but have long been intrigued by the manner in which it has successfully convinced groups in the community that it was the only, or just the most successful means by which to wean wasted souls off the dreaded drink.

Its reliance on, and claims of the success of its faith based 12-step program has always puzzled me in what we are told is almost an entirely secular population. The percentage of believers is understood to be miniscule, and yet those who have offended through liquor are routinely placed in these programs that demand commitment to  "God-based" 'steps' - an anomalous, even ludicrous situation, often in order to avoid incaceration.     

"The 12 steps are so deeply ingrained in the United States (and New Zealand, it seems!) that many people, including doctors and therapists, believe attending meetings, earning one’s sobriety chips, and never taking another sip of alcohol is the only way to get better. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers use the 12 steps as the basis for treatment. But although few people seem to realize it, there are alternatives, including prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, these methods are based on modern science and have been proved, in randomized, controlled studies, to work."

One can only hope that the authorities take note that well meaning as they may be, there is no longer any sound rational evidence that the AA programs work for the vast majority of those who are referred. Those who promote them must be regarded as having motives over and beyond merely achieving 'high' recovery rates - totally unable to be substantiated in the light of their reluctance to maintain meaningful statistics. Religious proselytising is clearly a credible alternative motive, even if hidden behind the mellifluous 'steps.' 

The sooner it becomes an entrely voluntary choice to undertake the AA program, the better!




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