Alcoholism is a Behavioral Pattern Helped Behaviorally

A substantial proportion of doctors in the U.S. believe that alcoholism is a behavioral pattern. They reject the theory that alcoholism is a disease. So they don’t treat it themselves. Instead, they typically send their patients to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA Beliefs

alcoholism is a behavioral patternIn AA, alcoholics are taught that they

    • Suffer from an incurable disease.
    • Must submit their will to God or a Higher Power.
    • Are powerless over their alcoholism.
    • Will never be able to drink for the rest of their lives.
    • Must be always be on guard against “slips.”

AA has a one-year success rate of only about five percent. In other words, about one of every 20 members. That’s such a low success rate that if it were a new med, the FDA would never approve it!


A federal agency (NIAAA) did a national study. It found that AA is less successful than no program at all! So it’s really counter productive. That is, worse than no program.

It appears that certain parts of the 12-step program actually reduce sobriety for most members. One example would be that of loss of control. In fact, believing in this theory reduces success!


Good news. There are effective alternatives.

These programs use evidence-based techniques. All help people achieve abstinence. Most also help people learn how to drink in moderation.


AA. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: AA, 2007.

Fingarette, H. Heavy Drinking. The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease. Berkeley: U. CA Press, 1988.

FitzGerald, K. Alcoholism is a Disease. In: Cozic, C., and Swisher, K. (Eds.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Green, 1991. Pp. 96-100.

Miller, W., et al. What works? A summary of alcohol treatment outcome research. Hester, R. and Miller, W. (Eds.), Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches. Boston: Allyn, 2003. Pp. 13-63.