There is no doubt that Alcoholics Anonymous and the follow-on twelve step programmes like Narcotics Anonymous, have helped millions of people world wide to overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Their success rate however, is only between 5% and 10% of the total people who enter the programme.
Why is this, and what can we do to help those hundreds of thousands, or possible millions of people who are battling addiction, for whom the Twelve Step Programmes do not work?
Lance Dodes MD has been treating people with addictions for more than thirty years. He is a Training and Supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and recently retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
In his book – The Sober Truth, he examines why Alcoholics Anonymous does work for between 5% and 10% of people who enter the 12-step programme. And importantly, why it does not work for the remaining 90% – 95%.
“Myths have a way of coming to resemble facts through repetition alone. This is as true in science and psychology as in politics and history. Today few areas of public health are more riven with unsubstantiated claims than the field of addiction.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been instrumental in the widespread adoption of many such myths. The organization’s Twelve Steps, its expressions, and unique lexicon have found their way into the public discourse in a way that few other “brands” could ever match. So ingrained are these ideas, in fact, that many would be hard-pressed to identify which came from AA and which from scientific investigation.
The unfortunate part of this cultural penetration is that many addiction myths are harmful or even destructive, perpetuating false ideas about who addicts are, what addiction is, and what is needed to quit for good.
We said earlier, that the 12 step programmes work for many people. If you are battling with addiction, there are other alternatives. Its worth examining those because an untreated addiction, does not end well. Also see our article about the myths of alcohol rehabs in South Africa.