THE BLOG
11/09/2010 09:30 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rush People Who Have 1-2 Drinks to AA?

Whenever I want to say something particularly radical, I turn to publications by government agencies. Often, these research-based groups are forced to utter realities, which are the surest way to raise cries of "kill the monsters!"

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol (NIAAA) is the American agency in charge of investigating alcoholism. Based on the largest study ever conducted (43,000 people) of people's life histories of alcohol use the NIAAA concluded in 2010:

  1. 20 years after onset of alcohol dependence, about three-fourths of individuals are in full recovery; more than half of those who have fully recovered drink at low-risk levels without symptoms of alcohol dependence.
  2. About 75 percent of persons who recover from alcohol dependence do so without seeking any kind of help, including specialty alcohol (rehab) programs and AA. Only 13 percent of people with alcohol dependence ever receive specialty alcohol treatment.

I know that jargon is hard to follow. Let me restate. Most people (3/4ths) recover from alcoholism on their own, and most still drink. Dial forward to the latest alcoholism study to hit the airwaves. "Heavy drinkers cut intake over time, but still drink more than the average adult."

These "heavy drinkers" were former problem drinkers or alcoholics:

A new study has suggested that heavy drinkers may reduce the amount of alcohol they consume over a period of years but are not likely to go down to the level of the average adult.

Given that heavy drinkers often don't become "normal" drinkers on their own, the takeaway message for clinicians and family members is to help connect a problem drinker to a community social service agency or Alcoholics Anonymous.

Using a telephone-screening program, researchers identified 672 problem and dependent drinkers who had not been in an alcohol treatment program for at least 12 months.

Note, compared with the NIAAA study of thousands of Americans, this study involved 672 people. But the most notable thing is that this article never discusses the actual level of drinking by these former heavy drinkers who are being told to go to AA; only a comparison with a notoriously light-drinking (on average) American population (half of Americans have less than a drink per month).

So, would you like to know how much these AA candidates actually drink?

"Average monthly consumption among the problem-drinking sample at Year 11 was 62 drinks for men and 31 drinks for women" (Figure 1).

That's two drinks daily for men, and one for women.

Let's turn to one more government publication, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, called the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

"An average daily intake of one to two alcoholic beverages is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality and a low risk of diabetes and CHD (heart disease) among middle-aged and older adults."

People are being rushed to AA for drinking at the level most guaranteed to lead to a long life.

That's America for you!

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