Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?

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Does Alcoholics Anonymous work? For someone seeking drug and alcohol rehab treatment, it’s an important question. Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer. Information about the value of AA varies widely. Estimates of its effectiveness range anywhere from 90 percent to 5 percent, depending on where you get your information and who you ask. AA claims that over one million people attended meetings in one given year.

However, AA doesn’t keep membership records, so how would they know that? AA does conduct member surveys from time to time, but even information from those surveys is based on anecdotal data that may or may not be accurate. Survey takers often skew the truth. Others won’t participate at all. How can any organization get accurate information from sources like that? AA was co-founded by Bill W. in 1935. Bill W. was actually William Griffith Wilson, who died in 1971, but no one in AA meetings ever gives a last name, so he is simply known as Bill W.

AA follows a graduated program consisting of 12 escalating steps:

  • We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol
  • We came to accept that our higher power alone could restore sanity to our lives
  • We made a conscious decision to turn our will and lives over to our higher power
  • We felt compelled to take a moral inventory of ourselves
  • We admitted to our higher power, another human being and ourselves the extent of our wrong doings
  • We accepted that a higher power would remove our character defects
  • We humbly requested our higher power to remove our shortcomings
  • We made a list of all the people we have wronged due to our addiction
  • We made amends to all those people unless doing so would further harm them
  • We continued to monitor our behavior and were willing to admit when we were wrong
  • We used prayer and meditation to connect to our higher power
  • We carried the message of AA out into the world

The last step is sometimes simply expressed as the idea of helping others in their struggle for recovery. Are the above steps powerful words? Yes. Do they sound noble? Yes, indeed. However, do they actually work? AA and the Statistics AA has published some confusing statistics. In its manual known as The Big Book, it claims a 50 percent standing success rate, with another 25 percent successful after one or more relapses. So, an overall 75 percent success rate. That’s pretty amazing. The problem is, there is no solid data to back this up.

A 2014 survey conducted by AA itself stated only a 22 percent success rate for members with 20 or more years of AA membership. The same study further claimed:

  • 22 percent of members were sober after one year
  • 24 percent maintained sobriety for one to five years
  • For members of five to ten years’ standing, the sobriety rate was 13 percent

None of those figures reflects anything close to even a 50 percent success rate. To be a little more objective, most professionals in the drug treatment and psychiatry field put the actual success rate of AA at somewhere between 8 and 12 percent. Again, this falls far short of 50 percent, let alone a 75 percent sobriety rate. There are some other problems with AA:

  • It’s intolerant of other treatment methods
  • It allows the use of certain addictive substances

AA does not condone, allow or recognize the value of the use of MAT or medication-assisted treatment. Examples of this include Suboxone for opioid use disorder. Suboxone has allowed millions of former opioid abusers to return to their former lives, taking care of their families and contributing to society. However, AA has a problem with this, probably because it doesn’t allow for a higher power to heal you and also because the narcotic in Suboxone is also in itself addictive. But, AA allows their members to use nicotine products like cigarettes and vaping devices.

Nicotine is a proven addictive substance. Why does AA make an exception for that while demonizing the use of MAT? It is not the intent of this article to demean AA. The fact is, it has helped many people abstain from substance abuse and maintain sobriety. However, some of its claims and methods are questionable, and it’s certainly not the only way. We Can Help If you have questions about AA or other treatment methods. just call us anytime at 833-285-1315. Our trained counselors will help you find the perfect treatment program for you.

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