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 (A.A.).

A.A. Beliefs

alcoholism is a behavioral patternIn A.A., alcoholics are taught that they

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

A.A. meetings have 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 treatment, the FDA would never approve its use!


Nation-wide research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) was done. It found that no program at all ismuch more effective than being a member of AA.

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


Fortunately, there are effective alternatives.

These programs use evidence-based techniques and advances in neuroscience and brain plasticity. All of them help people achieve either moderation or abstinence.


AA. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: AA, 2007.

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

FitzGerald, K. Alcoholism is a Disease. In: Cozic, C., and Swisher, K. (Eds.). Chemical Dependency. San Diego: Greenhaven, 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 & Bacon, 2003. Pp. 13-63.