The Current

Does AA get an 'F' for treating alcoholics?

When people look for help with alcohol dependency, they're often referred to Alcoholics Anonymous. But some alcoholics and researchers say 12-step programs are not only outdated, but dangerous....
When people look for help with alcohol dependency, they're often referred to Alcoholics Anonymous. But some alcoholics and researchers say 12-step programs are not only outdated, but dangerous.

Alcohol abuse is linked to more than three million deaths worldwide per year and is thought to cause an increased risk of developing more than 200 diseases.

This month, the World Health Organization released a report on the high cost of drinking too much. It found that Canadians drink more than the global average. And 31 per cent of male drinkers engage in binge drinking, which is twice the global average.

But not everyone thinks AA programs are the best resource to combat alcohol abuse.

There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate. And the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 per centDr. Lance Dodes

Dr. Lance Dodes wrote the book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

It's not only that AA has a 5-10 per cent success rate...But it's harmful to the 90 per cent that don't do well. And it's harmful for several reasons. One of them is that everyone believes AA is the right treatment. AA is never wrong according to AA. If you fail in AA, it's you that's failed.Dr. Lance Dodes

Today, we tackled this issue with two guests who can speak from personal experience about what works --and doesn't work-- when it comes to giving up alcohol. We also heard from a doctor working in the area of alcohol research and treatment.

  • Michael Pond is a psychotherapist who just released a book called The Couch of Willingness: An Alcoholic Therapist Battles the Bottle and a Broken Recovery System.
  • Ann Dowsett Johnston is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. She's also a Director of Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada.
  • Dr. Bernard Le Foll is Head of the Alcohol Research and Treatment Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

If you have struggled with alcohol, or if someone in your family has, what kind of help has worked? What hasn't?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Elizabeth Hoath.

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