Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?

Founded in 1935 as a mutual aid organization for the purpose of helping alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is famous for its 12-Step program supporting character and spiritual development. Among many methods AA uses to promote sobriety, two seem to be most conducive: Increasing the confidence of members to maintain sobriety in social situations and spending time with people who support their sobriety.

A recent study investigating the efficacy of AA analyzed information provided by 1,700 subjects enrolled in three different programs designed to treat alcoholism. Overall results indicate “that greater participation in AA during the first three months of the study period was independently associated with more successful recovery over the following year.” Authors of the study also suggest these results show, “social context factors are key — people who associate with individuals attempting to begin recovery can be crucial to their likelihood of success.”

Additional research regarding AA’s ability to help alcoholics stay sober includes a 16-year study comparing individuals who did not join AA during their first year of recovery to those attending AA meetings for more than 27 weeks. Results found that people participating in AA “had better 16-year outcomes than people who did not participate in Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Why Does AA Receive Negative Publicity?

AA’s reputation diminished in the 1960s, primarily due to critics describing it as nothing more than “cultish collectivism and dogmatic proverbs.” Others believed that AA secretly manipulated its success rate using anecdotes and tautological rhetoric provided by loyal members. Ex-members have supposedly claimed that sponsors are nothing more than sexual predators who take advantage of female recovering alcoholics.

However, none of these reports have ever been validated by credible sources.

Although evangelicals calling themselves the Oxford Group originally established Alcoholic Anonymous, AA has since separated from the Oxford Group to broaden their appeal, while retaining key spiritual ideas within their 12 Step program. For the most part, any negativity surrounding AA is unsubstantiated and comes from anti-spiritual people who view AA’s religious foundations as cultish. Other critics may be former AA members who relapsed and need to blame others for their alcoholism.

Do the 12 Steps Work?

The 12 Steps represent 12 statements encompassing the experiences of early AA members. They include statements like, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable,” and “We made a searching, fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Alcoholics Anonymous makes sure all new members understand they do not have to follow all 12 Steps if they feel unable or unwilling to do so.

So do the 12 Steps work to help overcome an addiction? According to those who have used them, yes. But they won’t work unless substance abusers fully commit themselves to overcoming their addiction by completing medically supervised detox, a personalized recovery program and adhering to fundamental principles of AA.

We believe 12 Step programs are highly effective in helping addicts recover and maintain their sobriety. In fact, we’ve happily witnessed the success of our 12 Step programs over and over again. If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance addiction, contact 12 Keys Rehab today to learn more about our personalized recovery programs.

The Addiction Blog