Why so irrational about AA?

AA isn't the only way to recover, but no reasonable person can say it's ineffective.
AA isn’t the only way to recover, but no reasonable person can say it’s ineffective.

Gabrielle Glaser has gotten another AA bashing article published and it’s getting a lot of attention. Of course she doesn’t really offer a tangible alternative.

I’m not going to write another piece rebutting it, but I’ll point you to a few relevant posts.

First, in New York magazine, Jesse Singal dismantles Glaser’s arguments.

As with any story about a complicated social-science issue, there are aspects of Glaser’s argument with which one could easily quibble. For one thing, she repeatedly conflates and switches between discussing AA, a program that, whatever one thinks about it, is clearly defined and has been studied, in one form or another, for decades, and the broader world of for-profit addiction-recovery programs, which is indeed an underregulated Wild West of snake-oil salesman offering treatments that haven’t been sufficiently tested in clinical settings. Her argument also leans too heavily on the work of Lance Dodes, a former Harvard Medical School psychiatrist. He has estimated, as Glaser puts it, that “AA’s actual success rate [is] somewhere between 5 and 8 percent,” but this is a very controversial figure among addiction researchers. (I should admit here that I recently passed along this number much too credulously.)

But on Glaser’s central claim that there’s no rigorous scientific evidence that AA and other 12-step programs work, there’s no quibbling: It’s wrong.

Next, one of my previous posts lays out the evidence for the use of 12 step groups.

Then, here are some of my responses to Dodes.

Finally, some posts on addiction treatment and recovery being made a front in the culture wars, including a response to a previous Glaser article.

8 thoughts on “Why so irrational about AA?

  1. I’ve read several of these articles now, and I just can’t help wondering: why all these attacks on AA? AA doesn’t promote anything, doesn’t sell anything, doesn’t do anything except provide a place where alcoholics come together to help each other stay sober. Who does this threaten? That’s the only rationale I can think of. I have 18 years, my husband 20, and most of the people in the rooms when I came in are still there and sober. Do some of us slip up? Yep. But we do not have to stay out there alone anymore. We are always welcomed back. Yeah. I just don’t get it. Unless this is, as was mentioned, another aspect of the culture wars. In which case, we’d all better be concerned.


  2. There will always be those who will criticise AA. It has worked for me, and for countless others, over the years and will continue to do so, one day at a time. I practise the AA programme to stay sober and to help others who ask for help. I do this in the spirit of Love and Service. Not a bad way to live really.


    1. people are going to take shots let them walk in our shoes there is nothing wrong with alcolholics anynmous it is the people that are poor examples and are there for thewrong reasons and make us look bad there is nothing we can do about that,so on a whole its the largest movement in the world and still growing the thing is all are welcome i think thats were we are questionable here,other issues besides alcohics not everyone is there to grow or etc etc i could go on and on at least we dont have preachers and a cult looking at aa postively it a poerful program its not for everyone lov me= zo


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