First of all, I encourage people to donate to the Wikimedia foundation. It is important we have scientific facts freely available on the Internet, not clickbait-driven half-truths.
This account is here to correct some fundamental errors some have about the efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous, errors which were amplified by a press which has been more interested in generating outrage (and the resulting clicks) than in objective truth.
AA has a 75% success rate
Inaccurate click-bait articles have claimed that AA has a 5% success rate. That number is bogus; there has never been a study or survey published which concludes that AA has a 5% success rate. Alcoholics Anonymous would never had become a world wide fellowship if its success rate was really that bad. As the US Surgeon General pointed out in 2016, “Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions.” To present an inaccurately low figure for AA’s efficacy without presenting all of the reliably sourced evidence and opinions of prominent treatment experts who know AA is effective is to break Wikipedia’s fundamental pillar of neutrality. Wikipedia is a place where we present neutral fact, not a place where we bend the truth to come up with something to make people angry so they will read our ads and “engage” on our site.
The truth of the matter—as backed up by scientific studies—is that "meeting makers make it." The AA Big Book, in the preface to the second edition, mentions a 75% success rate among "alcoholics who came to A.A. and really tried"; multiple observational studies support this figure, for example: Valliant 1995, Fiorentine 1999, and Moos and Moos 2006. There is a 2014 study which makes a strong case that this success is not from Self-selection bias.
Other treatments for alcoholism also work
Now, this does not mean AA is the only way to get sober, this does not mean that we should stop researching other avenues to reduce alcoholism, and this certainly does not mean we should judge people who do not choose to use AA to get sober. But considering it works really well for about 20-33% of alcoholics out there, it is a resource as effective as anything else we have come up with to treat alcoholism.
Why this account
My primary user account is one with my real-world name on it. Because of the need for privacy—I have gotten in trouble with employers for being an AA member—and because of the AA traditions, which forbid sharing my identity in "press, radio and films" as a member of AA, I need to have this alternative account.
I have an anonymous blog: http://defendingaa.blogspot.com
The opinions expressed by this account are my own and do not represent the opinions of Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues.
- There are three principal ways critics try to claim AA has a 5% success rate. The most popular one in the 1990s and first 2000s decade was to claim an old graph made by AA in 1990 showed a 5% retention rate, but this was based on the misreading of a poorly labeled graph; the actual one-year retention rate was 26%. Currently, the most popular claim is that Lance Dodes says it, so it must be true; however, Dodes synthesized the 5% number by multiplying unrelated numbers from different studies together, going as far as using numbers which are not real (no, Fiorentine 1999 never claimed a 40% success rate among regular AA meeting attenders). There has also been a claim that Vaillant saw a 5% success rate, but what he really saw was that 95% of chronic alcoholics, regardless of whether they ever go to an AA meeting, relapse at least once while trying to get sober.
- https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/sites/default/files/chapter-5-recovery.pdf Page 5-2
- Moos, Rudolf H.; Moos, BS (June 2006). "Participation in Treatment and Alcoholics Anonymous: A 16-Year Follow-Up of Initially Untreated Individuals". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 62 (6): 735–750. doi:10.1002/jclp.20259. PMC 2220012. PMID 16538654.
- Humphreys; Blodgett; Wagner (2014). "Estimating the efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous without self-selection bias: an instrumental variables re-analysis of randomized clinical trials". Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 38 (11): 2688–94. doi:10.1111/acer.12557. PMC 4285560. PMID 25421504.
- Lopez, German. "Why some people swear by Alcoholics Anonymous — and others despise it". Vox.
About a third of people maintain recovery from alcohol addiction due to 12-step treatment, another third get something out of the treatment but not enough for full recovery, and another third get nothing at all.
- Frakt, Austin (2015-04-06). "Alcoholics Anonymous and the Challenge of Evidence-Based Medicine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
- Zemore, Sarah E; Lui, Camillia; Mericle, Amy; Hemberg, Jordana; Kaskutas, Lee Ann (2018). "A longitudinal study of the comparative efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step groups for those with AUD". Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 88: 18–26. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2018.02.004. PMC 5884451. PMID 29606223. Lay summary.
- Keith Humphreys. "Here's proof that Alcoholics Anonymous is just as effective as professional psychotherapies". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2016-05-31.
AA skeptics were confident that by putting AA up against the best professional psychotherapies in a highly rigorous study, Project MATCH would prove beyond doubt that the 12-steps were mumbo jumbo. The skeptics were humbled: Twelve-step facilitation was as effective as the best psychotherapies professionals had developed.