On KQED’s Forum this morning, Stanford addiction expert Keith Humphreys, PhD, joined a discussion on alcoholism and the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous. He offered some interesting nuggets – noting, for example, that Iran is the fastest-growing country in terms of newly formed AA groups – and provided a breakdown of alcoholics’ response to AA:
What I’ve observed and [seen] in the research: For about a third of people, when they first go, they take to it like ducks to water, and a year later they’re still in AA and they are doing much much, much better. There’s another third of people who hate it and never go back, and say “It’s worthless” or even “I was damaged by that – that was so rotten and I’ll never go back to AA.” And then there’s an interim group that will often go for a bit and then kind of drift in and out and derive some benefit. And they may be people [who] are not there a year later, but they’re there five years later.
I also particularly liked what Humphreys had to say about the organization’s oft-discussed twelve steps (.pdf):
I’ve been studying it for 25 years, and I frankly think a lot of it is just very good wisdom about how to live. One of the things that strikes you about the twelve steps is the word ‘alcohol’ only appears in one of them. The other eleven are about things like admitting when you’re wrong, atoning for the bad things you do, not being selfish, being considerate of others. That’s just good living.