IT'S TIME TO ADMIT WE HAVE A PROBLEM
I read with some dismay the book review of Dr. Lance Dodes’ book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry. For people who claim to understand the 12-step approach, I found Dodes’ and Szalavitz’s statements indicate a lack of understanding. Twelve-step programs are for people who want them. Dodes and Szalavitz seem to have a view that “recovery” means no longer practicing the addictive behavior or behaviors. True recovery is about dealing with the underlying unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that lead to the symptom of the addiction. True, those that do recover are motivated to do so, but the fact that those who are not motivated to recover often don’t doesn’t mean that the approach doesn’t work.
Writer Maia Szalavitz argues that the government’s reliance on AA as a proven method to help offenders recover from their over-use of drugs and alcohol may actually be unconstitutional. God, of some sort, is present in AA and its literature, and is a necessary pillar of recovery, AA states. Should a better method be found, then Szalavitz is correct that our government should not mandate anyone to attend a program in which non-secular or non-humanistic beliefs are preached. AA succeeds by instilling in those who attend meetings that “no human power could have relieved us of our alcoholism.” This has always been a semantics hang-up with both detractors and defenders of the program. What many of us take this language to mean is that I could not stop drinking or using on my own. I needed a power greater than my own self-will to stop. And that is the sum total of the AA requirement: I can’t do this alone.
Let’s use science to cure disease. Absolutely. And let’s not have our government mandate that we believe in a God. Agreed. But let us not claim that the lack of scientific evidence about the efficacy of AA is lack of proof of the program’s benefits.
The article about the attachment to the 12-step regime was worth a lifetime of Pacific Standardsubscriptions. A group called Rational Recovery has long pointed out the follies of “recoveryism” in the substantial recovery industry. In 12-step meetings, and in the dogma of the process, attendees are constantly reminded that he or she is always an addict, and can never recover, and must continue to attend meetings for the rest of his or her life.
Santa Monica, California
Via Twitter, Christoph Paul, @christophpaul_, writes: “Mixed feelings on this article as someone forced into the 12 steps as a teen without being an addict & alcoholic.”
THE GERM THEORY OF DEMOCRACY
About our March/April cover story by Ethan Watters, “The Germ Theory of Democracy, Dictatorship, and all Your Most Cherished Beliefs,” Paramita Mohamad, @sillysampi, tweets: "If this provocative theory is right, then liberalizing a country should start with public health intervention."
With a different take, Ed Yong, @edyong209, says: “I could sum up this 4,400-word Pacific Stand piece on culture & disease in just two: ‘ecological fallacy.’”
FINANCIAL LITERACY REVISITED
I was disheartened by your article (“Crash Course,” January/February 2014), in which Helaine Olen purports that financial literacy education is a “sham” and a failure. A 2010 study of nearly 16,000 college students reveals that students from states that required a course in financial education had the highest levels of financial knowledge and were more likely to display positive financial attitudes than their counterparts. These young adults were also more likely to save and less likely to be compulsive buyers or max out their credit cards. Certainly, more work needs to be done, including more longitudinal analysis to assess the long-term effects of educational programs. However, blanket statements implying that financial literacy education doesn’t work only add to the confusion.
Director of Financial Literacy and Student Aid Policy Higher One
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