Alcoholics Anonymous Celebrates 80 Years
On June 10, 2015, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) celebrated its 80th anniversary. Founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio by New York stockbroker, Bill W and Akron Surgeon, Dr. Bob S, both of whom were alcoholics, AA has helped countless people maintain sobriety over the past 80 years. AA groups and members quickly popped up all around the world. Within 20 years there were 130,000 members and approximately 6,000 groups on five continents. Today there are more than two million members and over 115,000 groups around the world.
AA is often part of recovery for the estimated 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder; however, there are very polarized viewpoints about the program within the addiction treatment community. Dr. Eric D. Collins, shares his thoughts.
What do you think the pros are for using AA as part of treatment?
On the positive side, AA is free, widely available, and provides built-in group support, both in meetings and outside of them, in a generally welcoming, non-judgmental environment for people trying to achieve and maintain sobriety. It offers additional benefits for some individuals who struggle with social anxiety, because it offers an excellent venue for people to practice speaking in front of others (a mainstay of the behavioral therapy of social anxiety). Finally, it has proven helpful for millions of people. Nonetheless, AA isn’t for everyone.
What are the compelling arguments against AA?
In my opinion, I feel the strongest argument against AA is its bias against evidence-based interventions for opioid addiction. These interventions save lives and have also proven to be life-restoring for many individuals dependent on opioids. In general, the research on therapies for addiction has not demonstrated that AA helps individuals with addiction in the short-term as much as some cognitive-behavioral therapies. And AA is simply not constructed or equipped to help people with addiction address common co-occurring conditions.
Although there are arguments for both sides, Dr. Collins emphasizes the importance of taking an unbiased approach to examining the evidence and finding the most effective addiction treatment methods. “We should be thoughtful about all factors and continue to research the efficacy of AA, cognitive therapies and all major treatment approaches,” he says. “A one size fits all mindset – either from the pro- or anti-AA perspective – interferes with our efforts to help people manage and recover from addiction illnesses.”
If you are concerned about a drinking problem or are interested in finding an AA meeting near you, visit the AA website.
You can also learn more about the Silver Hill approach to treating addiction.