Most popular posts of 2015 – #1 – 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.

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.

What’s really going on?

WhatsGoingOnOver the weekend, the NY Times published an article on the Center for Motivation and Change (CMC). The article struck me as a little odd, because it presented CMC as a radically innovative program that is besieged by one-wayers who believe AA and Al-Anon are the one true path for every alcohol problem. I also thought it presented a very unbalanced description of the research on AA and 12 step facilitation. But, I get tired of responding to these articles and let it go. I assumed it was a neutral reporter who interviewed a subject who fed her misinformation and she didn’t have the time or inclination to dig further.

Anna David calls out the author, pointing out that she’s the author of a book that suggested women are questioning “the safety and efficacy” of AA.

Over the weekend, The New York Times published one of those pieces. You know those pieces. They come out whenever an AA-slammer wants to sell more books or push their considerably dangerous agenda. The author of this one is Gabrielle Glaser, who published her AA-slamming book, Her Best Kept Secret—in which she claimed that women are questioning, in her words, “the efficacy and safety of…Alcoholics Anonymous”—last year . . .

Sounds like the, “some people say” attack strategy. (I’m not trying to start a political argument. I’m sure Fox isn’t the only outlet that uses the strategy.) As I thought about Anna David’s response, I realized the whole besieged description is the same kind of thing. There’s nothing especially controversial about CMC. I’m familiar with them and we have a different approach, but there’s no controversy. I’ve never posted about them, I’ve bought their book and I’d even consider referring some clients to them. In fact, I Googled “Center for Motivation and Change” and found a lot of links–they are good at getting themselves out there. However, I didn’t even see anything critical about them.

So, then . . . what’s this all about? It’s interesting that they didn’t take the approach, “This works too.” or some other approach that makes the case for CMC’s model without trying to tear down AA and 12 step facilitation. Anna David suggests its about book sales but seems to wonder if there’s more going on. Could be.