What is Wrong with the AA Program?

Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step program have been the number one method for combating alcohol addiction for the last half century. It was apparently a sacrilege to criticize or question the program. If drinking was your problem, the only answer was AA and its program. If the program failed to work for you, it was regarded as your own fault. 90% of treatment programs for American alcohol addiction, by 2000, used the 12-step approach. Although the 12-step program has helped save many lives, it is not as effective as it is made out to be. Find out about some of the main problems with the program.

Low Success Rates

When it comes to Alcoholics Anonymous, the main flaw is that the success rate associated with its program for long-term sobriety is very low. Due to numerous factors, such as dishonesty and anonymity, accurate statistics are difficult to achieve. However, the majority of studies show that for over 5 years of sobriety there is around 2.5% success rate. According to some statistics, the success rate can be only a measly 0.01%.

Newcomers are mainly present at any Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Members generally include people who have been sober for just one day or a couple of days or weeks. Only a few individuals are sober for 90 – 120 days or 6 – 12 months.

Spirituality is not a complete cure

People tend to recover from alcohol addiction in various ways, and for some addicts, the spiritual elements in the AA program can be uncomfortable or confusing. It might not be very effective for everyone, and it indicates the assistance of a greater power. For atheists, these might not be very effective. They will require a better alternative.

For maintaining permanent sobriety, it can be a good idea to nurture a rich spiritual life. However, it is not the sole method. Not all methods for treating alcohol addiction should involve the help of a higher power. Furthermore, a spiritual path does not completely address the biochemical origins of addiction. This explains why relapse is very common.

The program itself is habit-forming

Those who recover with the help of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programs tend to fight continuous alcohol cravings. They suffer from various other symptoms such as depression, fatigue, tension, anxiety, and irritability that can have a negative impact on their overall lifestyle. It can compel them to keep attending AA meetings and depend on them for as long as they continue to live.

Even recovered addicts face a continuous battle to stay sober. Their alcohol addiction can be replaced by an addiction to various other substances, such as cigarettes, caffeine or foods, or activities such as sex. Even the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, continued to suffer from the symptoms of fatigue and depression. Until the end of his life, he stayed an incurable addict. Not many people know that Bill Wilson encountered severe addictions to caffeine, sex, and nicotine. Even his famous divine messages from God are often dismissed as being the result of shame, hallucinations, and sexual obsession.

It has not evolved with the times

It has to be kept in mind that the Alcoholics Anonymous program was created back in 1935. In the decades that have passed between that time and the present, there has been the discovery of plenty of information about alcohol addiction. Doctors and therapists have a significantly better understanding of their addiction. At present, scientific evidence informs that any addiction, including that of alcoholism, originates from allergy, depleted or imbalanced neurotransmitters, and nutritional deficiencies. 12-Step and AA programs have not yet expanded or grown in any way in their approach. As compared to treatment methods for other disorders, addiction treatment programs should constantly be updated. The treatment approach of AA program keeps stuck in primitive times and conditions.

Alcoholics Anonymous programs are often dismissed and criticized for the fact that these methods refuse to take fresh scientific evidence into account, hear to any information or insights which contradict its underlying principles. It goes on using an obsolete model to cure addiction, other than being rigid, shaming and orthodox in its approach. It attempts to justify its flaws and rationalize its approach by putting the failure of the program on addicts.

About Joan Swart, PsyD, Forensic Psychologist and lecturer

Joan Swart is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and business developer at Open Forest LLC. She authored two books titled “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” (Springer, 2015) and “Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook” (CRC, 2016). She is a contributor to Hubpages and HuffPost.

Joan Swart on the Web
More on: Addiction, Alcohol, Drinking
Latest update: November 14, 2016
Open Forest