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MGH Addiction Specialist Defends 12-Step Programs09:16
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A man holds a chip AA members receive to mark sobriety. (Bernardo Fuller/Flickr)
A man holds a chip AA members receive to mark sobriety. (Bernardo Fuller/Flickr)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Every now and then on Radio Boston we touch a nerve with our listeners, and that happened last week when we featured a retired Harvard psychiatrist who argued that Alcoholics Anonymous — and 12-step programs in general — usually don't work.

Dr. Lance Dodes is the co-author of, "The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-step Programs and the Rehab Industry."

Dr. Dodes argued that AA "has one of the worst success rates in all of medicine" and said it helps only one in ten people who enter the program — and can actually be harmful to everyone else.

We invited representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous to join us last week. They declined, but we heard from a lot of our listeners about this segment, and many took exception with Dr. Dodes' analysis. Among them was Dr. John Kelly, program director of Addiction Recovery Management Services at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Kelly wrote on our website that "the author grossly misrepresents the scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of AA." And, "given the public health disaster of alcohol and drug misuse... it is completely irresponsible of WBUR to buy the author's personal take on the research evidence."

Along with Dr. Gene Beresin, Dr. Kelly wrote a response piece on WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

Dr. Kelly joined Radio Boston to respond to Dr. Dodes' argument.

Guest

Dr. John Kelly,  associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and program director of Addiction Recovery Management Services at Massachusetts General Hospital.

More

CommonHealth: In Defense Of 12 Steps: What Science Really Tells Us About Addiction

  • "Rather than support Dr. Dodes’ position, the science actually supports the exact opposite: AA and 12-step treatments are some of the most effective and cost-effective treatment approaches for addiction."

Radio Boston: Harvard Doctor Debunks ‘Bad Science’ Behind 12-Step Programs

  • "'Alcoholics Anonymous was proclaimed the correct treatment for alcoholism 75 yeas ago, despite the absence of any scientific evidence, and we have been on the wrong path ever since,' writes Dr. Dodes. 'Today, almost every treatment center, physician and court system in the country uses this model, yet it has one of the worst success rates in all of medicine, hardly better than no treatment at all.'"

This segment aired on April 7, 2014.

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