How AA is Making College Drinking Worse…

…And Gaining Power in the Process

From Stanton Peele:

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 thatprolongs 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 aboutdrugs 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.

Read the rest.

  • Lucy

    My daughter was raised in AA (and was thrilled when her parents left). She told me that the Alateen kids dealt drugs, that the one boy she dated in AA snorted smack and that every AA kid she knew ended up as a junkie.

    As the irritating AA members say, of course her experience was anecdotal. Your experience may be different.

  • Border Collie Mix

    I get a feeling that there is an overtone of inevitability regarding the children of people in AA becoming addicted. I have heard too many people talk about their little “future alcoholics” when their kid does something that is basically just child-like. After a kid has heard that enough they internalize. It has always horrified me how so many kids that grew up in AA end up abusing drugs or alcohol.

  • Jonny Quest

    Dr. Peele’s analysis of the harmful effects of Steppism are spot on, but as usual, he also can’t help himself with the suggestion that if people learned “how” to drink, they would magically be no alcoholism.

    “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.”

    I come from a culture where people are taught how to drink, much like the anecdote he cites about the Greek man. The absurdity of the stepper suggesting they need “treatment” is of course spot on, but not Dr. Peele’s unwritten spin on it.

    I feel compelled to post this classic article from the Journal of Rational Recovery to balance things out.

    Stanton Peele: Dr. Beast at Large

  • Jonny Quest

    @BCM: AA kids are the worst, and it always seemed that the parents in AA *want* their kids to “hit bottom” so they, too, can be rocketed into the fourth dimension of existence. Degenerates. How about telling your kids not to hit bottom in the first place?


    In the Grapevine one guy wrote how he wished his son was an alcoholic so that he would be able to find the spiritual (not religious) path the he himself had so humbly discovered. What a gas bag! A bit more than saying the everyone could benefit from a 12 step program (which is a fairly common statement in AA). No this dude would have his son and those that love him suffer. Ah, that elusive fourth dimension.


    Lol…we be thinking the same thoughts JQ.

  • I was in an Al-Anon meeting where this woman was so worried about her 8 year old son because “he’s selfish, self-centered – he’s got ALL the characteristics of an alcoholic!” I’m so worried he’s going to grow up and be an alcoholic, I don’t know what to do!”

    Of course, AA uses these descriptions for a “practicing drunk” as a longhand way of saying he is CHILDISH. And of COURSE an 8 year old is going to act … childish. No wonder AA and Al-Anon members think all their children are hellbound to be alcoholics.

  • JCounselorM

    Kids learn more effectively from what they see modeled than what they are told, especially when what they are told constitutes hypocrisy. Like being told by a parent in AA that he or she has been “clean and sober” for X years, while the parent continues use of one of the most addictive and harmful substances we know – tobacco – which also happens to be a gateway drug.
    These kids will also be told that AA is a pathway to sobriety and health, while witnessing 90% relapse rates, then rationalization of continued relapse as “part of recovery” and due to the “lifelong disease”. It would not be surprising that they would become confused, angry, and at risk of addictive behavior.

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  • SoberPJ

    Wow ..

    Regular/consistent, healthful, controlled drinking = bad

    Binge, unhealthy, dangerous, uncontrolled overconsumption = ok, I guess.

    There is something seriously wrong with that picture. Changing it will be really hard.

  • SoberPJ

    So, if we keep teaching youth the wrong things, where does this end? How bad does it have to get before people in charge change the direction? Or, will the delusional model of dealing with substance abuse just keep rolling on and killing more people? Until what? What is it going to take to create a wholesale change in the attitudes and philosophies that AA is sliming the world with?

  • disclosure

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see a study on how harm reduction education and science based medicine are helping college kids?

  • According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are looking at a 21% increase from 2008 to 2018, which is the second highest growth projection closely behind the leader of Mental health counselor growth at 24%.

    The problem with allowing AA into the college arena,is that they are being trained as “prospect” hunters for Alcoholics Anonymous and they are mechanizing the the hunt. The “Big Book” teaches followers of the Bill Wilson philosophy to search out “prospects for Alcoholics Anonymous:

    BB p.89, Working With Others “Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. You can easily find some by asking a few doctors, ministers, priests or hospitals.”

    The Big Book on page 89 should be changed to include fraternities and other college groups. The trend of AA on college campuses is most likely directly proportional to the number of Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors that the facility is producing. They are on the prowl for a group of subjects to study and where else would be the logical place for them to do this? The danger is that in their zealousness to find real life subjects to study, they are also talking people who are just experimenting as part of normal growth into test subjects for life who they make believe that they have a terminal disease for life and future clients.

  • raysny

    @Jonny Quest
    I think Trimpey can be just as dogmatic Wilson. Seems he can’t admit that there are other ways to deal with drinking either.

  • MA

    I think Trimpey is a fraud.

  • Jonny Quest


    Dogmatic? Yes.
    Reactionary? Yes.
    A bit insane? Yes.
    A fraud? No.

  • Jonny Quest

    I think never-addicted psychologists pretending to treat addiction are definitely frauds. They get so close to the truth, but just seem incapable of grasping that once the brain has been altered by the booze, many are out of luck, and no amount of working on “issues” and hangups is going to change it back. The old cucumber turned pickle analogy is overused, but quite true in many cases.

  • Jonny Quest

    In all seriousness, though, this is some scary shit. Cult recruitment on campus? Peele is correct in that it is a form of neo-prohibition.

  • I just got a link from someone who contacted me when I first began my stop13stepinaa blog. This is a horrible story and Im glad she is speaking up but the guy is still free and walking around in young peoples events getting one girl after another. Easy Fucking pickings.

    Sickening. Im glad to see Stanton keeping ip the good fight. I hate AA.

  • Gunthar2000

    I think Trimpey took a lesson or two from Bill W.

    He’s got his own little cult now.

  • Jonny Quest

    @Gunthar2000: I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but I do hope that wasn’t directed at me…

  • Jonny, I identify completely. If you really want to drive steppers utterly mad, introduce them to your Greek relatives. Then watch them melt as the relatives look at them as if they’ve just dropped in from Mars. Steppers are used to people challenging them and used to thinking them either in denial or just not “in the disease”, etc. But even very American 4th & 5th generation Greeks (hell, even my Spanish relatives!) baffle these people so completely they are speechless. Sputtering. Have you noticed this phenomenon? It’s rather funny. It’s also comforting to me now that I had to have anything to do with this ideology.

  • Jonny Quest


    Yes, and I do understand where Stanton Peele is coming from. What Dr. Peele doesn’t realize, since he is American, is that in those cultures that he idealizes, drunkenness is considered sin, and it is expected that people who cannot control their liquor summarily knock it off. Even though drinking with dinner is very common, nobody is going to question you in Spain or Latin America, for example, if you say you don’t drink. They will never ask you where your home group is or if you are in recovery or some other bullshit like in the USA.

    Peele is mostly on the mark, but he is idolizing non-temperance cultures from the outside, as a stranger. He does not understand how they actually work from within.

  • AnnaZed

    @massiveattack ~ Are you talking about this story:
    or something else. I can’t tell from the thread context, but I’m losing track of stuff.

  • yes! Sorry Im kinda all over the place.

    About this thread. I am fuming about this College AA program thingy. Bloody insane. My plan is to just change the way All Americans look at Addiction and it’s treatment of it. Im serious. Change laws. Put up Billboards. Make PSA’s for radio & TV for Smart etc…. Have a reality show about Alternatives. Whatever gets the word out into our culture.

  • Jonny Quest

    It is actually quite a devious plan, because university campus police routinely stop students for drunken escapades. If the two-hatters can convince the universities that “90 in 90” be a condition for say, continued enrollment, they will have quite the uptick in foot traffic.

  • @Jonny

    I understand some disagreements you may have with Stanton, but on this, I think you’re exaggerating his positions a bit. He realizes that some of these cultures will not tolerate drunkenness – he cites examples of this in his writings, and how it leads to less substance abuse in those cultures.

    He’s not promoting moderation so much as he’s pointing out the danger of saying that anyone who’s ever had a problem with substances must now be abstinent. I think specifically, when young people have bouts of problematic substance use (and the problem could simply be that they were caught using) and then we tell them they’re doomed to addiction and must be totally abstinent – we’re now instilling a self-defeating view in them – a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think that’s the main phenomenon he’s fighting when he brings up this stuff about other cultures.

    The example he cites of chinese americans in one of his books is a great one. It’s not that you’re viewed as incapable of controlling yourself in that example – it’s that you’re shunned, and considered to have dishonored your family if you display such behavior. So you learn that people aren’t gonna tolerate your shenanigans – not that you’re powerless.

  • Jonny Quest

    @Steven Slate:

    He does redeem himself somewhat in some of his older writings, such as in this one. I do think that he intentionally downplays this aspect in his later writings on account of his crusade against temperance, though. He has to know that he is spinning it, and that his target audience is not going to know this stuff.

    A Moral Vision of Addiction

    “Conclusion: We have disarmed ourselves in combating the precipitous growth of addictions by discounting the role of values in creating and preventing addiction and by systematically overlooking the immorality of addictive misbehavior. In this way, scientists and treatment personnel contribute to the loss of standards that underlies our surge in addiction and criminal behavior by addicts. The steps we take – as in fighting the importation of drugs and introducing routine drug-testing – are exactly the opposite of the steps we need to take of creating more positive values among our drug-using young and holding people responsible for their drug use and other behavior… “