Since its founding in the U.S. in the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has proven to enjoy the support of a wide range of individuals, authorities, professionals, and civic organizations. According to AA, it was estimated in 2007 that worldwide there were over 116,000 AA groups, with more than 2 million members. Yet for all its popularity, relatively little is known about how and the extent to which AA actually works. The organization’s insistence on anonymity has made research about members difficult, and estimates of its success rate have ranged wildly, from 5% to 75%.
Wired magazine and the blog neuroanthropology.net offer up two articles, attempting to explain the draw of Alcoholics Anonymous. Brendan I. Koerner’s “Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works” examines the history of AA in a critical, yet balanced, fashion, discussing both the successes and shortcomings of the group’s approach. Mark Flanagan’s “Hard Drinkers Meet Soft Science” is interested in addressing the question, “Why do so many science-based medical providers recommend AA?” His answers: it’s free, it’s convenient, and it comes with passionate anecdotal evidence to support it.
2 thoughts on “Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work? How Would We Know?”
AA’s success is in public relations and publicity rather than overall treatment effectiveness. Those who attend AA begin to testify about it, as the group dynamic encourages.
AA has been ruled religious by the U.S. Supreme Court, and can in fact be defined as such theologically, sociologically, or by a dictionary definition.
As an ex-AA member sober by the power of the Biblical Jesus Christ, I can tell you that AA opposes all alternatives, whether secular, Christian, etc.
I can also tell you there is much spiritual and emotional abuse in some of these meetings.
Are there some wonderful people in AA? Yes, but this is a religion that, disguised as a spiritual program, has run rampant.