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addictionToday, the Pacific Standard published an article on how the 12-Steps is supposedly a farce. “It is time we admit we have a problem” indeed…

The writer cites numerous scientists who decry the state of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and how painfully lacking in science addiction treatment is even after 75 years.

There is only one problem: the 12-Steps was never meant to be a scientific means to “fix” addiction. It is, always has been, and always will be a spiritual program to help those overcome their struggles with addiction. It has never been represented as anything other than that by the mainstream of drug and alcohol recovery.

So what is the point? It is the best thing we have found so far.

The writer uses false comparisons (as most of these “articles” do) to addiction using an unidentified-yet-somehow-implicitly-similar disease, and what the treatment would be. Unfortunately, this is a false analogy. We are not comparing something that has a surefire method with something that has another surefire method—far from it. Instead of treating addiction like it is comparable to the common cold, treat it like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder is a better comparison, as there is no cure per se. None of those have surefire methods of treatment either, but we have found solutions that save more people than there otherwise would be.

While on the topic of logical fallacies, let’s bring up some others, such as the name-dropping of Harvard scientists in an attempt to appeal to authority. Oh, let’s also call BS on this little gem: “It’s true that people with alcoholism who choose to attend AA regularly drink less than those who do not—but it’s not proven that making people attend works better than other options, including doing nothing.”

Forgetting for a moment that she is admitting the effectiveness of 12-Step recovery: if doing nothing were an option, there would be no need for rehab programs in the first place. If it was a simple matter of not drinking or using, rest assured, there are many among us who would have opted for that, and indeed tried that approach for a very, very long time.

On one hand, I do have to give the author some benefit of the doubt: too many of us in recovery regard AA/NA the “only” way of getting clean and sober. This is natural, as most of us have tried numerous other methods of getting the same result, but came up empty. However, the Big Book of AA explicitly states that, “we have no monopoly…we merely have an approach that worked for us” (Alcoholics Anonymous p95). For the author to claim anything else, though, is either woefully ignorant at best, or an outright lie at worst.

Despite the author’s own source claiming that therapy is an integral part of addiction recovery, she dismisses this component based on therapy “often tak[ing] years to bear fruit” and not being any more helpful than 12-Step recovery.

Noticeably and painfully lacking from the article (again, like many others before it) is any sort of alternative. The writer supports chemical solutions such as methadone, yet fails to acknowledge that these programs maintain an addiction and address merely a symptom of addiction rather than treating it. At the same time, she dismisses the positive effects of therapy and prayer, as well as ignores the millions of people across the globe who benefit from such programs.

For better or worse, science does not account for this substantial number, but the evidence is clear: there are many of us form whom such programs have worked when so many others failed. Voicing skepticism is healthy, but so is questioning the motives, and with a new book coming out, we also have to wonder why the author has such a vendetta against the most widely accepted and embraced short- and long-term treatment program for addicts and alcoholics.

Addiction Treatment Denounced

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