How Alcoholics Anonymous works

Everyone knows what the initials AA stand for. Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous is the oldest, best known, and most successful mutual help organization on earth. Its millions of members make it the most widely used treatment for alcoholism, and it has inspired many imitators, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA). By some estimates, as many as 1 in 10 Americans, including two-thirds of those ever treated for alcoholism, have attended at least one AA meeting.

Since 1935 new treatments, including drugs and behavioral therapies, have been introduced for alcoholism. But it often still resists conquest, and Alcoholics Anonymous — ubiquitous and nearly cost-free — still offers the best hope to many. Researchers have begun to consider systematically how and why the AA approach to addiction succeeds or fails, and their discoveries may improve the prospects for treating all substance abusers.

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