Talk:Alcoholics Anonymous

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NLAES and NESARC[edit]

We have had the following for a while:

Two surveys that sampled the general population produced independent results on AA continuance rates. The 1990 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES) found that Alcoholics Anonymous has a 31% continuance rate.[74] The 2001-2002 National Epidemiological Survey on Alcoholism and Related Conditions (NESARC) indicates a slightly higher rate, at 35.2%.[75]

Neither reference provides sufficient information to determine exactly what was found. What I mean is, we need page numbers and, if possible, a link to this information. These are massive studies with hundreds of pages of tables. I am not contesting this information, just want to verify it. Thanks.Desoto10 (talk) 02:05, 16 March 2015 (UTC)

Reference 75 is behind a paywall at http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-0-387-77725-2_15. Does the number "35.2%" appear anywhere in that 21-page article, or is this another case of a random Wikipedia editor performing statistical analysis? Defendingaa (talk) 14:27, 18 June 2015 (UTC)
@Desoto10 and Defendingaa: I have the document and there’s definitely no mention of “35.2%” or even “35.2”. After quick statistical analysis on the low–hanging fruit, I have no idea where this figure came from. The closest the article gets to the data we’re trying to source is this: the “Abstainer at 1 year follow-up” rate is “257/720” (p. 273). However, even that is vague enough to possibly mean that the subject was drinking for the majority of the year and abstained the week of the followup. Let’s delete the reference to "Epidemiology of Alcoholics Anonymous Participation" and the zombie data. LLarson (talk) 17:27, 6 August 2015 (UTC)
I can’t find the 1990 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey online, and it came from the same edit as the one which claimed (incorrectly) that the 2001-2002 survey said 35.2 in it (it doesn't), so I'm removing the 1990 reference too. If anyone wishes to restore it, please quote the part of the survey with "35.2" or any other figure used in the Wikipedia article; any kind of statistical analysis of data is considered original research as per Wikipedia consensusDefendingaa (talk) 04:47, 8 August 2015 (UTC)

I have added two citations from reliable sources but not medically reliable sources.[edit]

I have added a couple of bits of information about how effective Alcoholics Anonymous is from reliable sources but not medically reliable sources:

  • The 2015 Cochrane review concerning how effective AA is has not been published yet, but one if its authors has commented in New York Magazine that he thinks it will be more positive towards 12-step approaches than the 2006 survey was. It's generally considered a reliable source, and it's the comments of an author of the upcoming review.
  • Lance Dodes's 2014 book "The Sober Truth" actually has that 26% number based on the 1990 Triennial AA survey in it.

One potential problem with these two sources is WP:MEDPOP: "The popular press is generally not a reliable source for scientific and medical information in articles." Would it be better to remove both the 26% number as well as the note from one of the authors of the next Cochrane Review on 12-step programs, since neither comes from a scientific journal? Defendingaa (talk) 15:00, 23 June 2015 (UTC)

Since User:Desoto10 feels the reference about what the upcoming Cochrane report will say is not reliable as per this edit, we can't include the 29% figure (or really, anything else) from The Sober Truth either. Defendingaa (talk) 16:09, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Sorry, but I don't see the connection. My only objection to the future Cochrane review is that we, and the coauthor, really have no idea what it will say. I don't see how we gain any information by referencing someone's opinion about something that does not exist yet. In any case, what does this have to do with The Sober Truth? Hasn't that been published? Ah, I see the part about "scientific journal". Yeah, I don't know; there is so little quality, unbiased scientific data out there on AA that these opinion pieces get thrown in (very much like the Diamond paper). Everybody has an agenda. Until somebody figures out a way to do a blinded, randomly assigned, controlled study of the relationship between AA and drinking outcomes over many years we are stuck with what we ended up with years ago which is "some say it works, some say it does not". In any case, we seem to have lost most of the interested editors on this article (which was a hot bed for a while). It would be nice to get some more eyes on this again.Desoto10 (talk) 20:36, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, I wonder where all the editors went. I just can't think of a way to keep Lance Dodes's information on this page while not allowing John Kelly's comments to be here also, without violating WP:NPOV. Since it did violate WP:MEDPOP (and no, we don't need the Gabrielle Glaser article on here along with all of the press reports refuting it, and we do not need every single one of Stanton Peele's weekly columns here), better to just remove. In terms of the scientific data, what I'm seeing is a slow turn towards a general scientific consensus that AA somewhat helps. Personally, I think AA is great for people willing to work it, but that it's really difficult to motivate an alcoholic to work the AA program. And, yes, a lot of members, especially people without long-term sobriety time, like to be dogmatic, which understandably turns off a lot of people from AA, but the actual Big Book isn't dogmatic (Page 164: "Our Book is meant to be suggestive only"). Heck, the dogmatism turns me off, and yes, I can see why people call it a "cult." Defendingaa (talk) 02:28, 21 August 2015 (UTC)


The WP:MEDPOP references above are now in the Effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous article. Should we remove them from both articles, or is it OK to keep them in the sub-article? Defendingaa (talk) 16:50, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

We should probably keep both articles in line with each other. As I recall, the Effectiveness article arose during the heyday of edit wars here (I would call it a POV fork, but that is just me). I think the idea was to move the discussion of efficacy out of the main article but, as far as I can tell, the Effectiveness article adds little to what we already have. To be honest, I have pretty much given up on the effectiveness aspect of AA...too many confounding variables. What I am interested in is the spirituality/religious aspect of AA. Tonigan has published a lot on this, but he does not spend much time trying to define spirituality as different from just bland religion. Our Spirituality article does not help much. At least that section is not ruled by Medical sources. Trouble is, again, you get hardcore people on both sides so maybe it would be best to just let it sit as is.Desoto10 (talk) 01:46, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
That Effectiveness article was and still is a bit of a mess; but I think it has the potential of becoming a quite useful article. 35, 45 years ago, yeah, there were a lot of studies saying AA did not work. I mentioned Brandsma 1980 below and touch on why this ancient study which showed a negative correlation between AA attendance and sobriety was garbage. There is also the infamous 1970s Sobell study which claimed chronic alcoholics could drink moderately again; that study was so bad, the Sobells were investigated for fraud. The study itself was about as accurate as Wakefield's vaccines-autism study. Yet, there are articles in the popular press and even textbooks which cite these outdated and poorly done studies; Gabrielle Glaser's recent hit piece in The Atlantic argues that the Sobell study was accurate because the authors were not convicted of fraud. Anyone holding on to the Sobell study, in my opinion, is up there with the anti-vaxxers and young earth creationists in their lack of critical thinking.
Whether or not AA works has been a point of controversy in the scientific recovery community, yes, but the scientific consensus right now is that people who go to meetings are a lot more likely to stay sober -- the correlation can not be questioned at this point. Even Lance Dodes admits to this correlation in his hit piece The Sober Truth. The science is now struggling with whether AA is helping alcoholics stay sober, or if people who were going to stay sober anyway end up being the ones going to AA.
Now, until the new Cochrane comes out, I don't think we can really summarize how studies are getting more and more favorable results with AA effectiveness in this article, but the sub-article is a nice place to mention a study, summarize its findings, and maybe even point to an article in the popular press about the study; I've done that with about four different studies so far and plan on adding more. I'll probably end up adding Brandsma 1980, but mentioning how newer studies discuss why that study is so inaccurate, as well as the Sobell study and the study refuting Sobell from the early 1980s.
In terms of the spiritual angle: The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Full stop. Nothing in the third tradition about needing to believe in God or join a church. The program in the Big Book is suggested and the Big Book itself says so, right there on page 164, in a reading sometimes read at the end of meetings. I have no problem adding a link to http://www.agnosticaanyc.org/worldwide.html in the article, and am about to do so, but the only way I can think to put it there in an encyclopedic manner is in a footnote. Defendingaa (talk) 05:54, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Brandsma 1980[edit]

In my research, I just discovered that Brandsma 1980 (Outpatient Treatment of Alcoholism: A Review and Comparative Study) appears to not actually be a peer-reviewed study. It is referred to in peer reviewed studies, but not positively. PMC2746426, for example, mentions "concerns with the Brandsma trial which call its experimental results into question", and PMC3602358 says that studies like this are "significantly limited in their methods or interpretability". That in mind, and keeping in mind that WP:MEDDATE tells us to avoid having 35-year-old studies, I am removing this reference. Defendingaa (talk) 21:30, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

Relapse prevention. An overview of Marlatt's cognitive-behavioral model.[edit]

For a while now, we've listed "Relapse prevention. An overview of Marlatt's cognitive-behavioral model" as a peer-reviewed scientific study showing that Alcoholics Anonymous does not help. However, reading over the actual survey, there is not a single mention of the steps nor of Alcoholics Anonymous in the entire paper, and a Google search does not show anything promising.

That in mind, I am removing this survey. Defendingaa (talk) 11:21, 25 August 2015 (UTC)