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12 Missteps? The evidence that AA works is many steps behind


Review of The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry
By Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes
Beacon Press. 192 pp.
ISBN: 9780807033159
 
Out-of-control addictions and do-over stints in rehab have long been the tragic but all-too-familiar tropes in celebrity death narratives, with a sadly lengthening in-memoriam list that includes singers Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and, most recently, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Too closely related for comfort is another star-studded roll call, this one headed by entertainment figures like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, who’ve become less renowned for their acting credits and more for their repeated flops at staying clean and sober, despite one stay after another at expensive, resort-like rehab centers in which 12-step approaches inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide the therapeutic heart of the program.

While these highly publicized cases would seem to raise questions about the AA model as the best addiction treatment regimen, that model has remained fundamentally unchallenged, both within the mental health field and in the culture at large. Still, so many failures at recovery simply do not gibe with AA’s sterling reputation. Does that mean all these celebrity cases are merely anomalies? Or, though it goes against conventional wisdom even to ask, does the 12-step approach have some basic…

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