Harvard Medical School and Division of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1249 Boylston Street, 3rd Floor, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, US. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure?
Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Volume 39, Issue 6, pages 431–436, June 2005
How to Cite
Vaillant, G. E. (2005), Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure?. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 39: 431–436. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1614.2005.01600.x
- Issue published online: 7 JUN 2005
- Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005
- Received 2 July 2004; revised 16 December 2004; accepted 23 December 2004.
- Alcoholics Anonymous;
- longitudinal study;
Objective: To discuss the mechanism of action, the efficacy and the safety of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the treatment of alcoholism.
Method: The published works on effective treatments for alcoholism is briefly reviewed and a prospective multidisciplinary follow-up of recovery from alcoholism in two community cohorts of adolescent males followed from 1940 until the present day is reviewed.
Conclusions: The suggested mechanism of action of AA is that it employs four factors widely shown to be effective in relapse prevention in addictions: external supervision, substitute dependency, new caring relationships and increased spirituality. In addition, AA serendipitously follows the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy in relapse prevention. 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. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably without serious side-effects.