Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

How AA Is Making College Drinking Worse, and Gaining Power in the Process

More kids disapprove of drinking healthily than do of binge drinking - go AA!

College students used to protest -- now they get drunk. This is young Paul Soglin.
The great thing about AA and the 12 steps is that, no matter how badly their philosophy fails to improve drinking, they've got an answer:

  • We need to get more people into AA - let's start college campus chapters!
  • Alcohol is an evil poison - we tell people not to drink it
  • It's a disease people have - we can't actually reduce alcoholism

So if campus and youthful binge drinking persist, that's not their problem you see.

The Monitoring the Future annual survey asks students their attitudes towards a variety of aspects of drug and alcohol use.  Over 70 percent (72%) of high school seniors in 2010 disapproved of adults having one or two drinks daily (see here, Table 10) -- the style of drinking that prolongs life and reduces the chances of dementia.  This is a higher percentage than disapprove of binge drinking -- having five or more drinks on weekend nights.

How is it that more high school students -- who have been learning about drugs and alcohol since grade school -- "know" it is wrong to drink in a way that encourages health in favor of a way that poisons it?

Why, Alcoholics Anoynmous, thank you!  AA is all about alcoholism and abstinence, the American black-or-white model of drinking.  That's all young Americans ever learn about alcohol given the AA-based approach in the United States.

When you hear AAers tell their tales, you can't help noticing how often it is that they were never introduced to sensible drinking (along with the pain many suffered prior to beginning to drink).  And it is this ignorance of how to drink that seems both to be the main source of their problems, and the principal thing they wish to pass along to others.

A woman wrote me at YouTube:

My 1st boyfriend was astounded that all my family (he was AA) drank, amazed that it's just normal for Greek men to drink at dinner, even once Americanized. He even tried to talk me into talking to them about treatment.....as time went on, he was amazed that my relatives weren't sinking into the "progression" of drinking he honestly believed anyone who drank would fall into. . . .

Nineteenth-century American temperance advocates were always more upset by moderate drinkers than they were by drunkards (their term for alcoholics), since sensible drinkers violated their world view, while drunkards confirmed it.

Which is what is being accomplished by creating more Alcoholics Anonymous chapters on college campuses.  (Say, I've got an idea -- let's have a corps of people who've gone bankrupt teach entering freshman how to manage their money!  Who could object to that?)

Ask the Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin, how drinking is trending at his town's university.  Paul Soglin was once busted at an annual college ritual that he is now trying to shut down in the town he leads, but for two very different reasons in the two cases.

When Paul Soglin was busted in 1969 at the wild Mifflin Street block party, the arrest was something of a badge of honor. The city had refused to grant a permit for the gathering, which was intoxicated with left-wing politics, among other things. Mr. Soglin was happy to defy the ban.

"There was an underlying theme of taking a sharp stick," he recalled recently, "and poking it in the eye of authority."

A leading Vietnam War protester, Mr. Soglin went on to become a counterculture folk hero here in Wisconsin's capital by winning election as mayor in 1973 at age 27. . . .

Decades later, Mr. Soglin is back in control of City Hall. But the old "hippie mayor," as he was widely known, is now rankling some students for backing a crackdown on rowdy parties and calling for an end to the annual Mifflin Street party.

At 66, his hair is flecked with gray, and Mr. Soglin, who is now in his third stint as mayor over four decades, confesses to being a bit of a grump.

"The binge drinking," he said during a recent interview over diet green tea, "has become much worse."

Going on a half century of growing AA influence on campuses --- and binge drinking is worsening.

But, don't worry -- the drunken kids can always enter the recovery community.  It is in this manner that AA exacerbates its own negative influence while profiting from it, just like temperance did.

We're really making headway!

Follow Stanton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/speele5

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

more...

Subscribe to Addiction in Society

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.