Addiction in Society

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

"I Am Not an Addict"

What does it do to you when AA makes you call yourself an alcoholic/addict, or Nora Volkow tells you that you are one for life. Read More

Have you ever even been to an

Have you ever even been to an AA meeting? Every AA meeting I've attended has always been about the person as a whole - mind, body and spirit. Every AA'er I've known has said that the only person who can diagnose you as an alcoholic is YOU! Reminding each other that we are alcoholics helps us not to become complacent and think, "Gosh, maybe I'm not an alcoholic after all. I think I can take just one drink." Well if you can drink in moderation and stop yourself (for the rest of your life, because I know many alcoholics that can moderate in the short-term) then perhaps you're not really an alcoholic. And AA has always helped me to look beyond the alcoholism; in fact, they even say that drinking is the symptom of a larger problem, whether that be environmental, psychological, emotional,social or otherwise. But if all you've been to is a meeting or two (or none at all!) you won't see the hard work that goes on between a (recovering) sponsor and the sponsee, if you're willing to look fearlessly at yourself and work on the INNER person rather than just the alcohol. Your condemnation of AA as a whole really saddens me because it feeds to the dismissal of it as a cult or at the very least as something only a weak person would believe in. Perhaps the low success rate of the program says a lot more about alcoholism itself than it does the program.

Dr. Peele, please stop spreading these falsities. There are many treatment options available, and not all of them will work for everyone. If AA doesn't work for a person, then perhaps your program will, and that's fantastic! But please don't dismiss AA altogether; that's just harmful and ignorant.

Did I ever tell you about the time

I was invited as a guest at a national board meeting of AA International at a hotel in New York. While I was there, an AA meeting broke out. They had three recovering people speak -- each was supposed to speak for 5 mins -- each went on for about an hour. I leaned over to the man who had invited me, and whispered -- "Even you must be bored out of your skull!"

One woman spoke who had been homeless as a teen, and two men who never drank at home, and then went berserk in college -- and kept on going. Afterwards, I went up to a board member, who happened to be President of Rockefeller University, and I asked him, "Do you give your children alcohol." He said he did let them drink wine at dinners when they became teens. I said, "You need to tell everyone in AA that it's their abstinence fixation growing up that seems to produce a majority of alcoholics, judging from tonight, and extremely disturbed childhoods, in the other case."

I then went up to woman who edited "The Grapevine," and told her she needed an article on that topic.

Right about then, the man who invited me came over and said, "They've told me that you need to leave."

"They've told me that you need to leave."

Unbelievable--unless one has had experience with AA. They say certain things officially, like their supposed stance that they don't give advice on medication but yet if you frequent "the rooms" often enough you will definitely be exposed to the attitude that all meds are bad. I actually knew someone who would not even use Tylenol. Also, the majority of AAers definitely believe that AA is the ONLY way and that you are "in denial" if you don't believe this. I could go on...

Unbelievable - 12 step/aa goes Stanton Peele ?

- The genetic component is "Homo Sapiens" (see Silkworth, 1939)
- Its not the addictive agent its the the act of self-medication (FE Dr Paul Oligher, esp the 1990s)
- Brain Scans ("ALL" addicts lacks Impuls Control, ... Lack of Impuls Control doesnt make you an addict)

Stanton Peele wasnt, isnt, but are (CULT !) forced to improve his (impressive) science background w/ historic science - (OK, as he did and does)

Back to 1975: Its not the drug/meds/pill/pill/behaviour in itself but the WILLFUL / AMBIVALENT act of self-medication (~Rado 1926/34)

Long talk, short message: 12 step never goes to Stanton Peele? Well then does 21 steps.


Glad to get that heads up. Where I go to most of my meetings, almost everyone is very pro-meds, because it's in an area where being "on" some pharmaceutical is the rule, not the exception. Mostly antidepressants I'm fairly sure.

Ignorance personified

Typical broken record stepper chants. Stop lying with your dangerous cult religion lies.

Tenacious you

You really are committed!
i read your posts and wait for the inevitable responses.
i wonder whether you ever get tired of the fight?
The sad thing is that the 12 steppers will never 'get' you, while those who do get you don't need persuasion.
As always, good luck.

I must be crazy!

But it's not just 12-steppers who don't share my view of addiction as a remediable, non-essential part of people (as Ilse and I depict it in Recover!). For instance, Arianna Huffington, a powerful woman with an empowerment message says (see my Facebook page) that she discovered her daughter was a drug addict in her senior year at Yale, and who joined AA -- AH lectured me (as an addiction expert) that I knew people never overcome addictions.


There are some self-evident truths that are just not amenable to being challenged. Everyone knows that the sun revolves around the earth. This fact cannot be challenged because my eyes don't fail me. Each day I watch the sun revolving around the earth. It's just that simple.


Just because Ms. Huffington is rich and powerful (for what accomplishment I cannot see) does not mean she is immune to the extreme brainwashing provided our culture from the 12 step cult religion.

Keep up the great work Stanton. You're a hero.

Past - Present - Future


"Gosh, maybe I'm not an alcoholic after all. I think I can take just one drink."

Science - A person that has had alcoholism.
Sensible - He was an alcoholic

Rational Debate

I'm encouraged to see that there is at least some rational debate about this topic. I was in & out of AA for years & struggled with the dogma, gossip, dependent personalities, the "disease" label, & on & on. Die-hard steppers will likely not join the debate & will continue to demonize Dr. Peele for telling the truth. AA has had a long run in this country & is probably here to stay, however, there are enough of us that are willing to face the truth now - the debate will continue.

I have / I had an addiction

This AA thing reminds me when you are down on your luck or rudderless you find this Prince Charming who takes over your life because you can’t seem to cope.
Your life becomes easier, it’s great at first, you are not alone. But when you feel better emotionally, more confident about your capacities, Prince Charming reveals himself to be a pretty angry and manipulative control freak who needs you powerless and believing you are nothing without him to feel better about himself. Not lot a room for growth in this relationship.

I wonder if putting the blame on yourself  – I am addict – leaves the family setting (we come from somewhere ) off the hook, insuring inherited crap going back generations is never audited. It achieves the opposite of growing and taking responsibility for your actions, be accepting of your mistakes and failures as parts to finding strength and confidence in yourself.

The AA tribe gives safety yes. Ultimately it robs from building the tools to be a human, warts and all, who can cope with whatever life throws at him.

Doremi - AGREE! All but one comment

Doremi - thank you for the laugh and the illustration of how the 12 steps work. I completely agree with you with the exception of one point. These program are not safe, ever, even in the beginning. To be required to embrace the idea that you are powerless is not healthy ... And that's just the first part of the first step! Prince Charming is a fairy tale ... As is the supposed 'safety' found in this seemingly 'charming' program.

I know that being powerless Is not healthy.

Safe, as in safe from public shaming as everyone is in the same boat. I am european, we don’t
air our dirty laundry in public, we like a confessional, but we look down on people who have an addiction.

I am anti 12 steps, how did we get from christian compassion to making someone tell their upmost secrets and failures in front a bunch of complete strangers over and over and FOREVER as a way of changing a bad habit?

Yet in the midst of an addiction, the first step feels like the truth and the second like offered help. I never made it past the third. I felt the “I “ was missing, avoiding it at all cost made no sense while finding it was the key.

When, like in my case, you eat half the content of the fridge, don’t know why and can’t stop, feeling powerless is the norm, and someone telling you the opposite feels like the charlatan. When you utter the words, say, to a friend who has woken up from a blackout on the other side of town in a stranger’s bed and has no memory of ruining your party, “ you have power over your addiction” he wont believe you because his only power he feels, is to ruin his life and disappoint his loved one and his friends.

Lots of people have their power knocked, crushed or sucked out off them, by their upbringing, church, education, and they don’t realise it. They walk around, not happy in their skin and their body without knowing why . Some only feel powerful when a God is on their side, it fills the hole where the “I” should be.

I always loved the term " as we understood Him" - on ratisse large

a tough one when you are a buddhist tendance Zen,

By N.6, you know you are in a cult, smiling a nervous smile and looking for exits.

“Addict” was probably pejorative from its inception

“Addict” was probably pejorative from its inception. According to my online dictionary the word has its origin in the early 20th century. Hm, right around the time various prohibitions were being put in place.

(NOTE: Psychology Today reports my link to Google’s nGram viewer triggered spam filter. Thus you can go to google, search for their ngram viewer and type in ‘addict.’ Quite interesting to see the spike around alcohol prohibition.)

In related news regarding words. I would not cede 'neuroscience’ to the disease-crowd. I would say some prohibitionists engage in neuroscience (brain study) but their interpretations of their data is not necessarily accurate. As someone else commented, it’s so obvious the sun revolves around the earth, just look!

I hope I’m not being too much of a whipper-snapper for wishing you’d written: 'as AA and some neuroscientists do.’ Instead of 'as AA and neuroscience do.'

‘Neuroscience' can not make choices on where to focus but neuroscientists do. I don’t mean to make a big issue of this, but I have to say something because one of the worst harms we face are the dingbat headline writers and journalists who constantly idolize drugs. They commit idolatry, giving them life they do not have by anthropomorphizing them. And not just drug prohibitionists, but nanny/thugs who want to control lots of other aspects of your life. “Sugar is ravaging neighborhoods.” “Fat is destroying our cities.” Plastic bags are taking over! (and they are probably commies too! :-)

To end on a hopeful note. I believe in the long run neuroscience/neuroscientists will end up vindicating us legalizers. It will be hard for the non-devout-Prohibitionists (since govt. only funds those searching for evil/harm/shame/etc…) to work; and I don’t mean to imply Prohibitionists haven’t stacked the deck; we’ve seen it in many fields: policing, politicians, political appointees, doctors, etc… But the more they glorify and mandate drug prohibition (Absolute Abstinence Zero Tolerance), the more it becomes obvious to the entire citizenry that what has been accomplished is the exact opposite of what they say.

In other news, I’ve been thinking and working on what I hope will be a terse essay about this very thing you have been writing about for a while but I will use just slightly different jargon.

I look forward to it!

"Addicted to" is a formulation that has been around for centuries, since the middle ages, meaning nothing more than habituated or persistently attracted to. Its meaning was usurped by medicine at the turn of the twentieth century and associated specifically with narcotics.

Jellinek's theory of progression vs Nora Vulcov

pre-alcoholic: 6-10 drinks
non-loss alcoholic: 8-12 drinks
loss of control alcoholic: 10-20 drinks

Davie's ex-alcoholics: 0-6 drinks

The progression zone is limited, starting at hard drinking.
Davie's ex-alcoholics did not return to some kind of "addicted/alcoholic" drinking but "non-addicted/alcoholic" drinking.

This ia aa, sort of. Its still a minority i guess?


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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.


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