Harvard researcher, psychiatrist and leading chemical dependency expert, George Vaillant, reviewed the research on effective treatments for alcoholism and assessed recovery in two community cohorts of adolescent males, followed from 1940 through the present day.

He concludes that AA is effective because of four different factors inherent to the program that have been widely shown to reduce relapse prevention for addiction: (1) external supervision, (2) substitute dependency, (3) new caring relationships and (4) increased spirituality. He adds that AA serendipitously follows the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy for relapse prevention.

Vaillant concludes that 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 appears to be unwarranted. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably without serious side-effects.

Citation: Vaillant GE. Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure? Australia & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2005 Jun; 39 (6): pages 431-6. [email protected]