Alcoholics Anonymous

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Comment by Brad Braun on January 12th, 2011 at 1:48 am

Your article states:

Despite a 95 percent failure rate Vaillant’s overall conclusion is that “Alcoholics Anonymous appears equal to or superior to conventional treatments for alcoholism, and the skepticism of some professionals regarding AA as a first rank treatment for alcoholism would appear to be unwarranted.”[24]

This supposedly references a 2005 book published by Vaillant. For starters, Vailant did not publish ANY book in 2005. He did publish “The History of Alcoholism Revisted” in 1995. That was the last book he published on Alcholism btw.

I would suggest your researchers re-read the study they are referring to. Not only did they not get the citation correct, they are misrepresenting Vaillant’s work. The 95% statistic is not a study on AA, nor is it an accurate reporting of the findings Vaillant reported. It is a glaring misrepresentation.

Vaillant’s study referenced in the 1995 book was of 100 severe alcoholics. After discharge from hospital detox, these alcoholics were followed for 8 years, during which time they had unlimited access to a local network of halfway houses, drop-in centers, detox units, and integrated mental health facilities. All patients were encouraged to attend twice-weekly outpatient meetings, which in turn encouraged AA attendance. AA attendance was optional and was followed to varying degrees by the study subjects. At the end of 8 years, only 32 patients had attended AA meetings 100 or more times, for a mean average of 600 visits. Over 8 years, 100 meetings averages out to once a month, and 600 meetings to one every 5 days.

Those who did attend AA had higher recovery rates. 50% of those with stable remission at the end of the study attended at least 300 AA meetings, while only 2 of the still chronic alcoholics attend 300 or more meetings.

Fully 95% of the subjects had one or more relapses during the 8-year study, and twenty-nine had died — roughly three times the death rate expected for non-alcoholics of the same age.


(p 191)
after 8 years:
29 patients achieved stable remission
47 were still chronic alcoholics

29 0ut of 100 is 29%. NOT 5%

It looks to me like your researchers did not actually read the book. I did. At best it appears they relied on a rather flawed summary of the findings. I could point out many flaws in the remainder of the article as well, but hey, I thought you paid people to research the articles already. Sad.

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on November 3rd, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Thank you, Brad, for your feedback. I reviewed the article with your comments in mind.

First, I do agree that the 95% figure is misleading as written. The statement has been revised.

Second, the 2005 study by Vaillant from which the quote is taken is not a book, but rather an article entitled “Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure?” published in “Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry” 2005; 39:431–436. I have added the link to the paper in our article.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment.

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