Alcoholics Anonymous Essays

In a review of the research on spontaneous recovery among alcoholics, Smart (as cited in Bufe, 1998) estimates the rate of natural recovery to be 3.7% to 7.4% per year.

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as cited in Fiorentine, 1999) this fails to take into consideration the fact that between eight-seven and ninety-five percent of new members drop out within the first year (Bufe, 1998; Galaif & Sussman, 1995).

Mc Intire (2000) questions the validity of these high attrition rates by stating that many first time attendees are not alcoholics seeking help, but rather are friends and family members there to lend support to an alcoholic member or other people (students, professionals) seeking information.

However, it is crucial to remember that popularity does not equal efficacy and in light of the numbers of people choosing or being referred to AA it is important to determine whether or not the program is an effective treatment for alcoholism.

Despite decades of research, the answer to the question “Does Alcoholics Anonymous work? While anecdotal and correlational data suggests AA attendance is associated with decreased drinking and maintenance of sobriety (Connors, Tonigan & Millar, 2001; James, 1978; Emerick, 1987; Mc Bride, 1991; Pettinati, Sugerman, Di Donato & Maurer, 1982) empirical research has failed to support the efficacy of AA over other alcoholism treatments (Bebbington, 1976; Miller & Hester, 1986) and in some cases no treatment at all (Kownacki & Shadish, 1999; Miller, 1997).

This may well be a contributing factor to AA’s high attrition rates and leaves perhaps the most vulnerable alcoholics to slip through yet another crack.

Natural Recovery Still further evidence against AA’s efficacy as a treatment for alcoholism is found in the documented rates of spontaneous remission or natural recovery.

In a controlled experiment Miller and Hester (1986) found AA to be no better or worse than alternative treatments for alcohol problems while other research involving alcoholic employees who were randomly assigned to inpatient treatment, compulsory Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or a choice of options revealed that participants assigned to AA did least well and required more additional treatment than those assigned to other treatment groups (Miller, 1997).

More recently a meta-analysis of twenty-one controlled experiments by Kownacki and Shadish (1999) revealed that randomized experiments indicate that at best AA is no better than other treatments and in the case of mandated attendance may in fact be significantly worse.

This becomes important when one considers that over one third of AA members are coerced into attendance by courts, prisons and employee assistance programs (Bufe, 1998).

(2) Successful outcomes attributed, by correlational studies, to Alcoholics Anonymous may instead be the result of pre-existing personal factors, such as an individuals motivation to succeed in treatment and a belief that the program will work for them.


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