Friday, October 31, 2014

Addicted to AA

Kicking an addiction can be incredibly difficult and there aren't a lot of sure answers to the problem.  Unfortunately as a society we feel like we have to do something when someone has an addiction that is causing problems for others and we can't accept that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.  That 'but we have to DO something' line is a problem in all kinds of situations but I think it is especially bad when we are talking about a person who is trying to end an addiction.  In particular it is terrible that we so often mandate particular forms of treatment that simply don't work like 12 step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous being the obvious example).

It seems to me that we almost have a societal addiction to such things.  We have used them so long that they have become the new normal and kicking the habit would be very painful because we would have to admit that we have been wrong all along.  This is a habit we really need to get around to kicking though because there is no reason to continue and every reason to stop.  Explicitly religious organizations telling people they require God to kick a habit are not something a country with religious freedom can mandate.  That would be true even if 12 step programs worked but they don't even have efficacy going for them.

Addictions can be a problem but we can't solve that problem with one size fits all solutions.  The roots of addiction are incredibly varied and hamfisted attempts to end them make things worse.  I would use the analogy of everything looking like a nail if all you have is a hammer but at least hammers are known to be good for something.  This is more like everything looking like a nail when all you have is a bottle of nuclear waste.  Addiction is a hard and complicated problem so any solution we attempt must be demonstrably effective as well as kind to those who are suffering.

1 comment:

  1. I recall watching Penn & Teller's show on AA and other twelve step programs. Essentially they found that from the evidence they gathered the program was as effective as simply deciding to quit, which to me is pretty remarkable since I would think that a bit of social support for quitting would count for something. But that's not quite the same as saying it doesn't do anything. It's entirely possible that if they both work for X% of people that it is not the same X% of people - that some people manage to quit because of AA who wouldn't have otherwise. Of course, that would mean that some people *fail* to quit because of AA who would have succeeded if they'd just said, "Wow, I better stop." AA is probably to quitting drinking as fad diets are to quitting eating so much, but if someone has tried and failed to quit on their own, I think trying a program like AA isn't necessarily a bad idea. I'd just definitely try just quitting first, and do something like, you know, talking to actual health professionals as well.