The Surprising Failures of 12 Steps – The Atlantic

Here’s a recommended read from The Atlantic. If you or somebody close to you is an addict, you’d be wise to read this vintage article. The article explores how a pseudoscientific, religious organization birthed the most trusted method of addiction treatment

Source: The Surprising Failures of 12 Steps – The Atlantic

As well as being a Chartered Accountant by profession, I have a Doctorate in Business Admistration, so I tend to look for the scientific evidence and then collaboration of the evidence, then I look for alternatives. In other words, I’m pretty skeptical of headlines and popular solutions. I’m just sharing my bias.

To me it’s obvious, as a trained social scientist, that ‘one-size fits all’, panacea programs has severe limitations – simply, it fails to deal with individual context.

Sadly, addiction brings enormous psychological, social and economic consequences to victims, their families and friends. Addicts are by definition extremely weak people and they’re constantly looking for an easy solution. Unfortunately, everybody is genarally desperate by the time that they turn to the ’12 Steps’.

The Atlantic article looks at the underlying scientific evidence and it raises some fundamental questions about the ’12 Steps’. Of course individuals might argue that ’12 Steps’ worked for them but their arguments are not based upon scientific analysis.



One response

  1. This article from the Atlantic, brought to us by Dr Alf, talks about the “Surprising Failure of the 12 Steps”.

    Rooted in the methodology of the old Temperance Movement of the 19th century, it makes assumptions about people’s beliefs that in today’s hedonistic and changing world (where many have no faith, profess atheism, agnosticism, gnosticism, nihilism, paganism and a belief in various forms of Islam, Hinduism) no longer apply.

    Thus, what once worked for people in the West, who closely understood and followed Judeo Christian ethics/philosophy now works less well today.

    Similarly, people now live longer, live in a more uncertain world, and without enabling personal philosophies many lack the mental toughness to overcome the difficulties of life and turn to drink and drugs to drown and alleviate their sorrows.

    We see this with drugs in the form of 6 million people in the UK who take recreational drugs and in America where worker productivity is now falling because of the ingestion of “opiates”.

    Having seen an old ‘MD’ of mine go through the 12 Steps, become a reborn Christian and then revert back to drinking within two years, I know that in his case it was pressure from the CEO that drove him to drink a second time.

    Today we see that divorce is faster, easier and cheaper than it ever was before and workplace pressures to perform even greater than Dr Alf and I in our respective youths used to endure. Most of those divorces (about 90% of them) are initiated by woman and in America the rate is the highest on the planet and divorce settlements the most costly and emotionally crippling in the world. That process is one I have experienced myself and an encounter with an American divorce lawyer is a brutal and harrowing experience which I have observed can and does push even very strong people to tears and the bottle before stripping them of their self esteem, their money, their possessions, their businesses, their investments, their houses and often their livelihoods.

    The failure of the 12 Steps is therefore not in the least surprising to me because of these relevant factors.

    My saving grace was stoicism and a natural resilience forged in my formative years from age four to age 11, whilst being bullied at school, and having to engage in low level violence up to three times a day.

    Others with less challenging backgrounds simply seek refuge in drink and antidepressants like Prozac and Seroxat (rates of prescription are rising rapidly), so new approaches are now needed.

    Alpha Music(see :www.silenceof by John B Levene, an Australian composer, whom I know personally is one such approach. It can be very powerful and can cure a range of ailments from heroin addiction to alchoholism, sleepnessness, stress, fear of dentists and inability to study.
    Whilst there are many case studies which suggest its effectiveness, one cannot say that these CD’s will work for everyone, so as with Lord Sugar’s search for capable apprentices to mentor it must be a case of “The search continues”.

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