In the mid-1930’s, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) began promoting the theory that alcoholism is a disease. Alcoholics latched onto the theory because they could see themselves as victims of a disease. Thus, they wern’t responsible for their drinking problem. Doctors, hospitals, and alcohol rehabs liked the theory because they could then be paid for treating the “disease.” But what’s this got to do with alcoholic loss of control?
“I don’t like to call myself a drunk. I prefer to say I have a disease.” Anon.
Fundamental to Disease Theory
Basic to the disease theory is the belief that alcoholics suffer “loss of control.” That’s after drinking any alcohol. As a result, they can’t stop themselves from continuing to drink.
One problem is that science doesn’t support the disease theory of alcoholism. Another is evidence against loss of control.
For example, alcoholic priests don’t lose control after drinking wine in religious services. They blieve that they are drinking Christ’s blood rather than wine. So they don’t lose control.
And alcoholics don’t lose control after drinking alcohol without realizing it. They “lose control” only if they know they’re consuming alcohol.
Result of Belief in Loss of Control
Here’s a very serious fact. People who believe in the loss of control theory are much more likely to relapse after drinking. That’s compared to those who don’t believe in it. Thus, the idea of loss of control often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
That may explain why AA is less effective than receiving no help.
Except for helping alcoholics in detox, medical treatment for alcoholism doesn’t work. That’s why a substantial proportion of M.D.’s reject the disease theory of alcoholism.
It’s good that not all recovery programs are based on the disease theory. This leads to a higher success rate. Here’s a partial list.