Critic Faults Alcoholics Anonymous For Lack Of Evidence

Posted: March 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm


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A meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1950s was based on much the same 12-step program used today. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

A meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1950s was based on much the same 12-step program used today.

Founded by two men in Akron, Ohio, in the 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has since spread around the world as a leading community-based method of overcoming alcohol dependence and abuse. Many people swear by the 12-step method, which has become the basis of programs to treat the abuse of drugs, gambling, eating disorders and some other compulsive behaviors.

But not everyone's a fan. In a recent critique of AA, author Gabrielle Glaser writes in the April issue of The Atlantic that, "Nowhere in the field of medicine is treatment less grounded in modern science."

Glaser, whose 2013 book Her Best-Kept Secret explores what she calls "the epidemic of female drinking" in the U.S., says recent research on the brain suggests that the abstinence advocated by AA isn't the only solution or even the best for many people. Cognitive therapy combined with the medication naltrexone, Glaser says, can help ease cravings and has been shown in some studies to help some problem drinkers learn to drink moderately without quitting.

Glaser's magazine story has drawn fire from defenders of AA, including Huffington Post writer Tommy Rosen, who calls himself "a person in long-term recovery (23 years) who overcame severe drug addiction and alcoholism in great part due to the 12 Steps." Glaser's article, Rosen writes, is "painfully one-sided." Therapist and psychology reporter Robi Ludwig told Glaser and the host of MSNBC's program All in With Chris Hayes last week that she thinks it's "very dangerous to put out the idea that AA doesn't work. Does it work for everybody? No. There's not going to be one form of treatment that works for everybody."

In an interview with NPR's Audie Cornish for All Things Considered, Glaser discusses her story, the heat she's getting and why she believes people with a drinking problem should consider options beyond AA. NPR contacted Alcoholics Anonymous for comment, but the organization declined.

Interview Highlights

On why Glaser thinks Alcoholics Anonymous should be challenged and updated

We did a lot of things in 1935 that we don't do anymore. You know, when babies were delivered, we spanked them on the bottom and held them upside down and that's something that didn't necessarily hurt babies, but we don't do that anymore.

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Critic Faults Alcoholics Anonymous For Lack Of Evidence

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March 26th, 2015 at 5:49 pm