Posts Tagged ‘AA’


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Chris Hedges’ series on RT, “On Contact with Chris Hedges,” has a new episode titled “The Fatal Addiction.” In it, Hedges does a fine job of presenting the human cost — the heartache, the deaths (50,000 last year in the U.S.) — caused by opioid addiction and overdoses.

While he succeeds at that, he doesn’t deal with the causes of addiction, nor with the failed, dominant approaches to curbing drug addiction, nor with better approaches. (Of course, it’s too much to expect any of this in a half-hour documentary, and one hope Hedges will deal with these matters in future episodes.)

Since “The Fatal Addiction” doesn’t tackle these issues, we will here. Please consider the following:

  • The dominant view of addiction in the U.S. is that it’s both a result of moral failings and is a “disease” or “illness.” (See AA’s “Big Book.”) This is  wrong on both counts, which can be easily seen when you look at historical addiction and overdose rates. They’re not steady, but vary dramatically over time.

Opioid overdose deaths have multiplied tenfold over the last two decades in the U.S.; reported rates of alcoholism have also fluctuated considerably over the years; the rate of tobacco addiction has plummeted in recent decades; and 95% of American soldiers who were addicted to heroin in Vietnam kicked it without treatment after they came home.

If addiction was caused by moral “shortcomings” (see AA’s 12 steps), one might ask whether former tobacco addicts became more moral over the years, whether morality skyrocketed among heroin-addicted Vietnam vets after they returned home, and whether the spiking opioid addiction rate has been caused by a mass outbreak of individual immorality.

If addiction is a “disease,” not a behavior, as we’re constantly told by 12-step treatment professionals, 12-stepping celebrities, and reporters who accept that absurd assertion at face value and who haven’t done their jobs (investigating, analyzing, raising awkward questions), one might ask the following: Why would the rates of addiction to different substances vary so radically from one substance to another in the same time periods, why would the rates of addiction to single substances vary so radically over time, and what does disease “theory” predict about rates of addiction in the years ahead?

Disease “theory” advocates have no answers to these questions, because disease “theory” is a “theory” only in the popular sense of the word (a conjecture or wild guess). In a word, it’s an assertion. It is in no way a scientific theory, and hence cannot provide answers; its adherents cannot use it to generate testable (falsifiable) predictions.

The dominant 12-step view of addiction (that it results from moral shortcomings and is a “disease”) is very, very wrong.

(As for the actual roots of addiction, one can look to psychological factors — stress and hopelessness, to oversimplify — and the environmental factors contributing to stress and hopelessness. I dealt with this in a separate post, “AA, the War on Drugs, and Disastrous Misconceptions,” so I’ll leave the matter here.)

  • As for AA and the treatment approaches derived from AA with its incorrect assertions about “moral” failings and “disease,” they’re every bit as ineffective as you’d expect.

Twelve-step groups such as AA and its clones (NA, CA, etc.) produce results no better than the rate of spontaneous remission, as shown by the best available studies: studies with control groups and random assignment of subjects, mass-participation longitudinal studies, and AA’s own triennial surveys. I summarized this evidence in “Alcoholics Anonymous Is Not Effective,” so again I’ll leave this matter here.

The formal (“professional”) 12-step treatment programs derived from AA are just as ineffective as AA itself. (I haven’t put up anything about this on the blog, but deal with the matter at length in Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?)

One telling segment in Chris Hedges’ documentary is with an interviewee who mentions an addict who’s been in and out of rehab 17 times, which the interviewee says is typical. (The numerous 12-step references in the documentary [“meetings,” “sponsors,” “recovering addicts”] are equally typical.)

Clearly, the dominant American approaches to addiction aren’t working. Why, beyond faulty “moral failings” / “disease” premises?

  • For one thing, we’ve been stuck with the authoritarian, worse-than-useless “war on drugs” and the criminalization of addicts and recreational drug users for decades. This has resulted in untold suffering and incredible waste of tax money (easily $1 trillion over the years, and currently a good $50 to $70 billion per year).  Criminalization has ruined countless lives to no good effect, and it’s been utterly ineffective at reducing drug use and addiction. If you doubt this, consider the number of opioid overdose deaths over the years, that hard drugs are freely available to almost anyone who wants them (see Hedges’ “The Fatal Addiction“), and have become both cheaper and more powerful as the “war on drugs” has ground on.

So, what does work? What will reduce drug use, addiction rates, and deaths from overdoses?

  • On the purely personal level, the only treatment approaches with good evidence of efficacy are cognitive behavioral therapy approaches. (I deal with this in the final paragraphs of “Alcoholics Anonymous Is Not Effective.”)

I should note that methadone “treatment” merely substitutes a legal synthetic narcotic for illegal narcotics; this is substitution, not treatment — it keeps users dependent on an addictive substance.

  • On the societal level, it’s obvious that the “war on drugs” and criminalization of drug users and addicts must be abandoned.

Not only has criminalization of drug users and addicts failed to reduce the rates of drug use and drug addiction, it has taken an incredible human and economic toll. It’s done nothing to reduce the availability nor the price of drugs. And it’s a major component of “big government” intrusion into the lives of individuals.

Criminalization of drugs and drug users has been an utter disaster.

(Those who profit from the enslavement of “war on drugs” prisoners might disagree.)

Criminalization of drugs and their users is in large part directly responsible for the tens of thousands of overdose deaths every year in the U.S. Why? There is no quality control with illegal drugs. Those who buy them (especially opioids) are quite literally gambling with their lives, and multitudes lose that gamble every year.

So, is legalization (or at least decriminalization) a better approach?

Yes.

In Portugal, where drug use was decriminalized in 2001, the rate of death from overdoses has plummeted, as shown in a recent Washington Post article, “Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal.” The rate of opioid addiction has fallen in half. Portuguese taxpayers aren’t paying ungodly amounts of money annually to lock up drug users and drug addicts. And Big Brother isn’t intruding (or at least intruding less) into one aspect of the lives of individuals.

  • Finally, here’s a question that almost no one asks, and even fewer try to answer: Why do millions of Americans feel so stressed, so hopeless that they drink themselves to death or play Russian Roulette with hard drugs?

The answer to that question has been available for decades.

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Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Here are a few time-tested ways with which people have moderated their drinking. As with almost everything else in life, there are no guarantees that these will help. But if you’re concerned about your drinking and don’t want to quit, here are a few things that might work for you. Emphasis on might. (The AA dogma that you’re powerless is simply wrong — there’s a good chance that if you work at it you can learn to control your drinking, or at least moderate the harm it causes. You are not powerless.)

For now, we’ll address only the day-to-day techniques. And please note that this is not a comprehensive list of moderate-drinking techniques. These are only a few things that I know of that have helped people who want to keep drinking but want to moderate, and who don’t want to give up their drinking friends and usual haunts:

  • Alternate alcoholic drinks and nonalcoholic drinks. For example, if you’re drinking beer, have a glass of water between every beer. The water will help you avoid getting drunk, and you’ll have the reward of a beer after every glass of water.
  • Keep track of how much you’re drinking — write it down. Keep a “drink diary.” In years past, this was done with a pen and  pad. Nowadays, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an app for it.
  • If you’re out drinking, keep track of how much you’re drinking and over how much time. If you do this and have any doubts at all as to whether you’re close to or over the legal limit, look up your estimated blood alcohol content (BAC). Moderation Management has BAC charts on line. Here’s the BAC chart for men, and here’s the BAC chart for women.
  • To take things a step further, carry a breathalyzer with you. Key fob, battery-powered breathalyzers are available on eBay for under two dollars, shipping included, and presumably better ones are available for about ten bucks. Before relying on one of these cheap Chinese products, though, it’d probably be a good idea to have a couple of drinks at home and check the breathalyzer reading against the BAC chart.
  • Allow yourself a certain number of days per week to drink. Keep track of them. Even taking one day off per week is better than drinking every day (though three or four days off per week is better than that). After having a no-alcohol day or two, you can look forward to your next drinking day.
  • Avoid hard booze, wine, and medium- to high-octane beer, and stick religiously to low alcohol beer. Stick to beer with 3.5% alcohol by volume or under. Some of these beers actually taste pretty good, and will get you buzzed but (probably) not drunk. (You’d have to work at it to get drunk on 3.3% beer.)  Sticking only with the ones commonly available nationally, the best are probably Kirin Light (3.3%), Heineken Light (3.3%), and Amstel Light (3.5%); the Miller (MGD 64) and Budweiser (Bud Select 55) low-alcohol brews are considerably worse than their full-alcohol (5%) counterparts. (Bud Light, at 4.2%, is not a low alcohol beer.) If you’re drinking craft beers, stick to the blondes, which tend to be under 4.0%. And even when drinking low-alcohol beers, do alternate them with nonalcoholic drinks.

There are no guarantees that these techniques will help you moderate your drinking. But they might.

If they don’t work, you can always try an abstinence program such as AA or SMART Recovery, and more likely succeed at it because you’ve given moderation a shot.


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front cover

by Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

There are direct connections between the beliefs underlying Alcoholic Anonymous and those underlying the “war on drugs.” The most fundamental is that alcohol and other drugs are “cunning, baffling, powerful!” (to quote AA’s  “Big Book”) This belief is reflected in the common “drug war” term “dangerous drugs” in reference to illegal drugs, which combined, until recently, to kill about 5% of the roughly half-million Americans killed annually by tobacco and alcohol; today, about 50,000 are killed annually by overdoses, the vast majority by opioid overdoses. In other words, alcohol (roughly 100,000 deaths) and tobacco (roughly 400,000 deaths) kill ten times as many Americans as all illegal (and misdirected pharmaceutical) drugs combined.

To put this in further perspective, “drug warriors” almost never refer to alcohol and tobacco as “dangerous drugs,” while they do routinely refer to marijuana, which has never killed a soul, as a “dangerous drug.” Some of them might actually believe that it is.

The concomitant belief, that human beings are “powerless” over “cunning, baffling, powerful!” drugs, is shared by both AA and drug prohibitionists. In AA and its clones (NA, CA, etc.) that belief is enshrined in the first of the 12 steps. It’s also part of the bedrock of the “drug war”: if people are powerless and drugs are powerful, the only way to stop the harm of drug addiction is to cut off the supply of drugs.

The other underlying “drug war” belief is based in punitive Christian morality: the belief that the only way to deal with prohibited (sinful) behavior is through punitive measures–in the case of drugs, that it’s necessary to lock people in cages for using drugs and for making drugs available to others.

Another aspect of this belief system, common to both AA and the “drug war,”  is the belief that drug use and abuse are an individual matter, that individual drug users and abusers are either victims of a “disease” (according to AA — never mind the absurdity of labeling behaviors as “diseases”) or are criminals (according to “drug warriors”). What ties these two seemingly disparate beliefs together is that they both divorce drug use and abuse from their social and economic contexts.

A moment’s reflection shows that this is an absurd approach. If drug use and abuse were entirely the result of individual immorality or individual powerlessness over drugs,  the rates of drug use and abuse would not vary drastically (if at all) from one nation to another, nor would the rates vary wildly within nations over the years. But they do. Neither “disease” advocates nor “drug warriors” can explain these variances. To explain them, you need to consider social and economic contexts.

A case in point is a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Princeton researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton on the increased mortality rate among middle-aged white, especially male, Americans aged 45 to 54 from 1998 to 2015, with the increase being .5% per year. During the previous two decades, 1978 to 1998, the mortality in that age range had been decreasing by about 2% per year–as indeed it’s continued to do so in all of the other developed countries since 1998. Why? The researchers posit that, while there’s no definitive proof, these increases are likely due to an increased suicide rate and increased drug and alcohol abuse triggered at least in part by increased financial stress.

If 12-step advocates and drug prohibitionists were correct that the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a result only of individual “disease” or inherent “criminal” (sinful) tendencies, this increase in drug and alcohol abuse would not have happened. But it did. The solution advanced by 12-step advocates is treatment, and by “drug warriors” is a combination of imprisonment and treatment. In both cases, the treatment offered is almost exclusively 12-step treatment, which does not consider social or economic contexts nor social or economic solutions, but rather focuses exclusively on individual “wrongs,” “shortcomings,” and “defects of character” (respectively, steps  5, 7, and 6), with the solution to alcohol/drug abuse being “prayer” (step 11), taking a “moral inventory” (step 4), and “turn[ing] our will and our lives over to the care of God” (step 3).

As one would expect, the 12-step religious program does not work very well. As covered in  a previous post, Alcoholics Anonymous is not effective, both AA’s own statistics (“Comments on AA’s Triennial Surveys”) and controlled studies report that the recovery rate in AA is no better than the rate of spontaneous remission, about 5% annually. Controlled studies of formal 12-step treatment have been even more dismal, with some components used in such treatment, e.g. confrontational “counseling,” having negative outcomes.

So, what do AA advocates and “drug warriors” lean on for scientific support?

One of the standard studies cited — quite possibly the most commonly cited — by 12-step advocates and prohibitionists was conducted in the 1960s. It involved placing rats in Skinner boxes (small boxes with no toys or other amenities–essentially solitary confinement for rats in an ultra-deprived environment) and then giving the rats the choice of either plain water to drink or water laced with morphine. Surprise, surprise — the rats chose the water with morphine. This study was widely cited by both drug prohibitionists and the mass media as “proof” that rats, and by extension people, are powerless over irresistible drugs.

In the 1970s, researchers at Simon Fraser University conducted a similar study, but with the rats in a much larger cage filled “with things that rats like, such as platforms for climbing, tin cans for hiding in, wood chips for strewing around, and running wheels for exercise. Naturally we included lots of rats of both sexes, and naturally the place soon was teeming with babies. The rats loved it and we loved it too, so we called it ‘Rat Park.'” The results? The Rat Park experiment showed that in this rich environment the rats ignored the morphine-laced water and drank plain water instead. The initial study was published in 1978 in the scientific  journal Psychophramacology. The mass media, government, and disease-concept advocates ignored it, and AA, 12-step treatment, and the “war on drugs” rolled on, leaving millions of ruined lives in their wake.

The lessons of all this are obvious: It’s time to stop blaming those who are self-medicating, and to stop looking at drug use, abuse, and addiction as the result of individual sinfulness or “disease.” It’s time to stop locking people in cages.

It is time to start looking at, and addressing, the environmental, economic, and social reasons why millions of people find life so intolerable that they — like rats in a deprived environment — feel the need to seek solace in drugs, alcohol, and illegal drugs. And it’s long past time to start doing something about the environmental, economic, and social reasons for drug use, abuse, and addiction.

* * *

For more information on Rat Park, see lead researcher Bruce K. Alexander’s 2010 book, The Globalization of Addiction: A study in poverty of the spirit. 

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I love writing these posts — they practically write themselves, and I chortle all the way through the writing process. I delight in the sick and grotesque, and, as you’ll see, religion really delivers the goods.

So, here it is, the best of religion since the beginning of the year.

(This post will be a bit shorter than our previous Joy of Religion post. We’ve omitted the items about religious parents killing or seriously harming their children by denying them medical care, because such items are so common and so depressing.)

Anyway, here goes. Enjoy!

  • There are a lot of good atheist videos on Youtube from ex-Muslims. One that we particularly like is Things Muslims Should Know About Apostasy. About 30 seconds in, check out the crybaby Islamic judge wailing about “insults” to the prophet. Like all too many PC leftists and Christian fundamentalists, Islamic religious extremists believe that they have a right not to be offended. They don’t. It’s a binary choice:  either you have the “right” not to be offended or you have the right to free speech. As is blindingly obvious, if everyone has the “right” not to be offended, no one will have the right to free speech. And if only some have the “right” not to be offended, you end up with tyranny.
  • A recent piece in The Guardian, The shelter that gives wine to alcoholics, provides yet more evidence that the religious approach to addictions enshrined in Alcoholics Anonymous is utterly useless, if not actively harmful, and that the secular harm reduction approach produces much better results. (The rate of recovery via AA is no better than the rate of spontaneous recovery.)
  • The always entertaining Rev. James David Manning of ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church has proclaimed that “God is gonna put a cancer in the butthole of every sodomite,” and that “every sodomite will have a flame coming out of his butthole,” necessitating “special ass asbestos diapers.” Do check out the video — Manning’s words only hint at the power, at the magnificence of his performance.
  • If you’ve ever doubted how misogynistic Mormonism is, check out Rape victim could be punished under BYU’s ‘honor code.’
  • For yet another testimony to the salutary effects of religion upon individual judgment, see Woman says rapture was coming, God told her to crash car into Walmart.
  • And finally, via Florida Man, in an item which seems like it must have a religious connection, though the article doesn’t mention one, we find Florida man charged with soliciting sex with dogs on Craigslist.

Stay tuned. More to come.


Logo of Campaign against sex robotsWhen I saw  a news report about a campaign to ban sex robots, I laughed. I thought that the “campaign,” if it actually existed, was the result of:

  1. The entire Onion staff going on a PCP binge
  2. Denizens of the fetid, postmodernist swamps of academia unleashing a new mutant horror upon an unsuspecting public
  3. Some pranksters doing an excellent imitation of the entire Onion staff going on a PCP binge

Then I saw another article on the campaign, and followed the link to the campaign’s web site. I still wasn’t convinced it was real, despite persuasive evidence on the site–sex robots will, somehow, “objectify” women, and (as always) must be banned for the sake of the children. You’d think that would have been enough, but no. So, I looked up both members of the “organizing committee”–all two of ’em–and they’re real academics with real jobs in academia! I’ve gotta stop being so suspicious.

The Guardian has a good article, “I was fresh meat,” on a negative aspect of AA we haven’t covered here: sexual exploitation of newcomers. As long as we’re on the topic of Alcoholics Anonymous, I’ll mention again that the best online source of information on AA is Orange Papers.

If the entirely unwarranted worship of Ronald Reagan by Republicans makes you queasy (as any type of hero worship should), check out The Intercept’s “Seven things about Ronald Reagan you won’t hear at the Reagan Library GOP debate.” It’ll provide several handy facts you can cite the next time an acquaintance shows disturbing signs of Reagan worship.

The stupidity of the right’s rhetoric about a “war on police” is revealed by the figures reporting violence committed by police and violence committed against police. According to The Guardian‘s “Counted U.S. Police Killings,” “US police kill more in days than other countries do in years.” There’s no government registry of police killings, so The Guardian‘s count of 862 citizens killed by U.S. cops so far this year is very probably low. At the same time, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 96 cops have died in the line of duty this year. However, according to the same pro-police site, last year over half of the 117 police fatalities resulted from accidents or illness, with only 49 resulting from assault (primarily gunshots). Assuming the same holds true this year, that would mean that 39 cops have died from citizen assaults in 2015. Compare that with the 862 citizens killed by the police. That works out to a 22:1 ratio. There’s a war on all right, a war of the nation’s cops on its citizens.


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front cover

by Chaz Bufe, author Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

A friend mentioned the Orange Papers site to me tonight. I’d forgotten about it, as it’s been around forever, and I’m thoroughly sick of writing about AA–and reading about it, too, for that matter. (Twelve years ago, some kids torched my guest house, which was home to all of my research materials on AA and substance abuse treatment; it was almost a relief.)

Back to Orange Papers….. The site contains an amazing amount of well researched, well argued material. I’m familiar with almost all of the areas covered,, and everything I’ve seen on the site is accurate. (There’s also a lot of information on it of which I was unaware.)

It’s all there (topics in no particular order here):

  • AA’s actual (in)effectiveness as opposed to its claimed effectiveness
  • AA’s “spirituality” as very thinly disguised religiosity
  • AA’s origin as part of a wacko evangelical group
  • AA’s principles as codification of that evangelical group’s principles
  • The pro-Nazi statements and actions of that evangelical group’s head and other prominent members
  • The intellectual dishonesty of the AA program
  • AA’s pronounced anti-intellectualism
  • AA’s other cult-like aspects
  • Cults that have grown out of AA
  • And some good news: most people with alcohol problems overcome them on their own without any contact with AA; there’s some evidence that people exposed to AA do worse than those never exposed to it–in other words, AA is not necessary to overcoming alcohol problems, and could well be harmful

Don’t let the archaic appearance of the Orange Papers site put you off.  Its information is accurate, amazingly thorough, and up to date.

Years ago, I tried to talk the site’s author into writing a book on AA. Unfortunately, he declined. I still wish he’d do it.

For now, instead of a book, we have Orange Papers. If you’re at all interested in AA, it’s the best place on the ‘net for information.


Today’s guest post is by Ronn Spencer

There are better remedies for “substance abuse” than joining a cult hell-bent on convincing you to subordinate yourself and be dependent on them for the rest of your life–a perpetual victim whining about your deficiencies to other needy and gullible dupes who are now addicted to their specious and fatuous “cure.”

Here’s how I see it. First, one group of idiots creates the modern world and all its attendant miseries (your ruling class). Next, another group of con artists (the media, public schools the clergy, AA, etc). proclaim this lifestyle as splendid, rewarding, and, worse yet, beneficial to the human spirit. Then, the handful of us who understand that the whole thing is a soggy, decomposing wad of stinking, rotting half-truths and delusions are demonized and pilloried for trying to self-medicate our way through their nightmare.

“Hi, welcome to Bedlam, here’s your bunk. Don’t mind the rat crap and the petrified vomit on the walls–you’ll get used to it. What’s that? Didn’t apply for this? Too bad! Lay down and behave or the attendant brings the restraints. Leave? Are you kidding? You can’t leave! This is a club you never asked to join and that will never accept your resignation.”

So, we self-medicate. Booze, drugs, sex, which at least are participatory sports. Unlike America’s favorite panacea–sitting in front of the television and having your id, ego, superego, and unconscious slowly sucked out of your body by a cathode vampire.

If you’ve really decided to kick the booze, the dope, the smokes, so be it. When you cross that line where the stuff is corroding the plumbing you have no choice but to find some other coping mechanism. That’s why motivational speakers, televangelists, gurus, AA, and the rest of the charlatans are making big bucks nowadays.

My advice is to avoid these parasites with every fiber of your being and rely on stoicism, courage, resolve, and intellect. Otherwise, like the balloon-benders used to do on variety shows in the ’50s, the snake oil salesmen will twist your noodle into a cute doggie, pigeon or fat, stupid Rotarian.