Evidence on AA

Alcoholics Anonymous is something I know mainly from Hollywood, which has an ongoing obsession with the format. It fills roughly the expository niche that was once occupied by psychoanalysis — it’s an easy way to fill in backstory, and enable introspection that would otherwise be totally out-of-character.

Still, AA gives me the creeps — the religiosity, the rigidity, the all-or-nothing approach. If I were ever addicted, I’d run a mile from anything with 12 steps.

I occasionally wonder how fair that is. Is AA, as Hollywood would have it, the One True Way to cope with addition? Scott at SlateStarCodex has dug into the research. Turns out that even


can’t help: “

the studies surrounding Alcoholics Anonymous are some of the most convoluted, hilariously screwed-up research I have ever seen




seem to work better than no treatment. But then, so does psychotherapy. So does


. So does 5 minutes of a doctor suggesting that you think about quitting.

most alcoholics get better on their own. All treatments for alcoholism…increase this already-high chance of recovery a small but nonzero amount. Furthermore, they are equally effective after only a tiny dose: your first couple of meetings, your first therapy session.

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