Archive for the Effectiveness of AA Category

Death at the New Life Lodge

Sudden Death Raises Questions about Rehab Center

For Lindsey Poteet, Sept. 1, 2010, was supposed to be the day she finished a monthlong drug rehabilitation

Lindsey Poteet

program, giving her a fresh start to care for her 17-month-old daughter, Arwen.

Instead she lay brain-dead and on life support in a Nashville hospital bed.

The 29-year-old had checked into New Life Lodge, a residential drug rehab facility in the secluded town of Burns in Dickson County, in early August, but within weeks became very ill.

The circumstances of her death have brought an array of unanswered questions from her family and shined a spotlight on the oversight of the largest drug rehabilitation facility in the state that is also one of the largest providers of state-subsidized care and rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addicts. It treats adults and youths.

Why was Poteet, who had come down with pneumonia, placed in a van and driven 30 miles to Nashville when Horizon Medical Center was just 8 miles from the rehab center? Why was the van driven by a woman who didn’t know how to discern during a 911 call if Poteet was breathing or not?

Why did it take so long to get Poteet the proper medical help when she was at a health facility that specializes in helping people like her recover? Poteet’s autopsy said she died of combined drug toxicity, a mix of anti-depressant and therapeutic drugs. It was ruled accidental.


Addict hired as doctor

Earlier this year, New Life Lodge hired Dr. Kevin Collen as its primary physician, even though Collen had recently completed a drug rehab program in Alabama.

After failing a drug test conducted on Jan. 21, 2010, by his previous employer, Nashville-based Mental Health Cooperative, Collen admitted that he had an addiction to street-level methamphetamine and benzodiazepines for more than one year, according to records maintained by the Tennessee Department of Health.

Collen was fined $5,000, and his medical license was placed on a five-year probation.

Gaskin said she viewed Collen’s addiction struggles as an attribute and said his medical license has no restrictions.

“Dr. Collen is in recovery with monitoring, an attribute that proves invaluable when helping patients overcome their own addictions,” Gaskin said. “After all, ours is a business of rehabilitation, redemption and second chances.”

Read the whole thing.

Typical day at the New Life Lodge.

(h/t Stanton Peele via new Stinkin Thinkin reader. Thank you!)

Why Addiction Recovery Should Be A Feminist Issue

There are so many different angles from which to criticize the current state of addiction recovery. Not only is it a culture, a permanent lifestyle, and a religious institution, but it’s an enormously profitable industry that thrives on its own failure (relapse is big bucks). But it seems that people who are participating in the progressive conversation on the big stage aren’t aware that addiction recovery is a parallel universe that influences popular culture. It’s imperative that progressive voices genuinely begin to challenge it, and I’m going to try to appeal to different arenas of the activist sphere and make a case for why addiction should be part of the conversation. Right now, I am hoping to put recovery culture on the feminist radar by offering a condensed version of this twisted world and the culture it has generated. I don’t have much of a feminist pedigree, but I hope I can make a good case for its relevance to feminist activism.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog throwing tantrums about the fact that addiction gets no play among the skeptic and new atheist writers out there – people who actively combat quackery and religious influence in public policy. How does it escape these people that a whole branch of public health has already been handed over to the faith healers?

I have a few theories about that. But my favorite is that, despite their skepticism, they’re still a little superstitious about the topic: Addiction is such a complicated and elusive condition. Who wants to touch that with a ten foot pole? The reason addiction is such a mystery, though, is that our conventional understanding of addiction has its roots in religious philosophy – not science, psychology, or medicine – and it has not evolved at all in 75 years. Neither has the way we treat it. The vast majority of addiction facilities in this country employ the 12 Step program for spiritual enlightenment as the basis for their treatment. Things we take for granted about addiction, for instance that it’s a “progressive, fatal disease,” are completely unfounded, but they put the sharpest critical thinkers in a bind. Doesn’t everyone know at least one person who believes that their life was saved by accepting their powerlessness? How do you start challenging that if you think that someone could die of it?

“I’d be dead without AA” is one among many thought-stopping cliches that keep criticism of addiction mythology at bay. Add to this AA’s own persistent misinformation campaign, its unimpeached reputation as a benevolent organization, their noble insistence on anonymity, the public’s general ignorance, and the amount of time and effort it would take for someone on the outside to piece together a big picture. This mess has allowed a fringe religious culture to spring up around addiction and quietly influence the landscape in ways that I think would be of enormous interest to feminists. At least I hope I can make a case for it: Continue reading Why Addiction Recovery Should Be A Feminist Issue

Pennington Asks the Right Question!

Mark Kerrigan gets two and a half years in death of father

In a case which could give the most rebellious son a moment of pause, Mark Kerrigan, brother of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan, will serve two years total for assault and battery of his 70-year-old father Daniel Kerrigan.


According to a report from CBS Boston, the 45-year-old was acquitted on charges of involuntary manslaughter, but the jury still found him guilty of assault and battery. The original sentence handed down May 26th, 2011 was for the maximum two-and-a-half years, but six months of the sentence was suspended at the request of defense attorney Janice Bassil, in lieu of a one-year probation sentence added on to the jail time.

In the same report, we also learn that Judge S. Jane Haggerty ordered Mark Kerrigan to take an anger management course, as well as attend Alcoholics Anonymous. Was that a wise move? While the convict admits to having a drinking problem, is AA the best choice? With all the support AA gets from the legal community, they only claim a 5 percent success rate. That’s 95 percent failure. Why not require him, and others like him, to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy, where progress is usually achieved?Daniel Kerrigan died from heart failure after a fight with his son, Mark. Prosecutors claimed Mark Kerrigan caused his death when he grabbed his father’s throat with enough force to break cartilage in his larynx, which led to heart failure. His defense attorney convincingly argued the 70-year-old died from clogged arteries.

Recovery Thought Police

Wyoming Supreme Court: Sentence Unusual But Not Illegal

CHEYENNE — The sentence of a Campbell County man convicted of aggravated assault and battery was unusual but not illegal, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a split decision.

Willis Center Sr. pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced by District Judge John Perry in November 2008 to 36 to 80 months in prison. But the judge stayed the sentence and granted Center a furlough so he could enter an alcohol rehabilitation treatment program.

Center failed the program primarily because he refused to complete the written first step of the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program in use at the WYSTAR center.

He was then sent to the state penitentiary.

On appeal, Center claimed the sentence was illegal and his right to due process was violated in the way his placement was revoked.

The supreme court majority, in an opinion written by Justice William Hill and including Chief Justice Marilyn Kite and Justice Michael Golden, said that while the sentence was “unusual and perhaps ill-advised,” it was not illegal.

Read the rest…

First, the judge diagnosis Center’s real problem as alcoholism, not violence, and sends him to an alcohol rehab program, which turns out to be nothing more than AA. Center cannot bring himself to admit he’s powerless over alcohol, so they “fail” him and send him to the pen.  I think the state has put itself in the position of having to prove that the 12 steps are effective and necessary for the treatment of alcoholism.

Maybe he should have gone to the pen in the first place for whatever violence he comitted, but now he’s being sent there for not taking the First Step, which is nothing more than a statement of belief. Insane.

Questioning Orthodoxy

It seems that the subject of Charlie Sheen is gradually turning into the subject of addiction treatment — which, up until a couple of weeks ago, seemed taboo.  Finally, we’re having this conversation out loud. The author even cites the NIAAA study:

How Effective is Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Message of Sobriety?

Now I feel like I’m the crazy one, because Charlie Sheen is starting to make sense. Because contrary to what the talking-head television therapists have been saying, addiction doesn’t have to end in rehab or death. In fact, some figures show that most drug addicts stop doing drugs without help.

According to America’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 75 per cent of drinkers quit on their own, and many heavy drinkers do not have alcohol dependence. An NIAAA official made the statement that alcoholism “isn’t usually” a “chronic, relapsing disease”.

On the surface, Sheen’s porn-star-and-juice detox seems dubious. But Pax Prentiss, co-founder of the Passages Addiction Cure Centre in Malibu, California, says: “He did pee clean. He may have stopped and he may stay stopped. But if you take Charlie out of the picture, there are people who just stop using. In those cases, what happened to the disease?”

Prentiss and his father have been called the “Holocaust deniers of the addiction-recovery movement”, because they believe that alcoholism and drug addiction can be cured.

As Charlie Sheen’s soundbites sound more like Charlie Manson’s, it’s obvious that he needs some type of help. If AA defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again – and Sheen has been going to rehab for more than two decades – it may be time to try another tactic. But anything other than admitting that you are powerless over your addiction is referred to in AA-speak as being “in denial”.

Celebrity meltdowns are supposed to follow a pattern. First comes the breakdown, and then the celebrity’s publicist suggests that it would be better for everyone if they go to rehab.

The 12-step philosophy has been so ingrained in our cultural philosophy that it’s been parroted on shows such as Intervention and Celebrity Rehab, which is like Celebrity Big Brother with methadone. We’ve seen it all before: the family members tearfully reading letters about how their loved one’s behaviour is affecting everyone, the threatening to stop enabling, and, eventually, tears and hugs.

Read it all…

AAs Come Out of Their Troll Holes

ST reader J.G. just sent me this infuriating, yet revealing, little post on PopEater. I am seriously dying of a cold right now so I can’t compose a coherent thought. I’m just going to leave it up to everyone else to debunk. Also, I know some of you all are sick of hearing about Charlie Sheen, but this article not about him as much as it’s about the response from the status quo to their worst nightmare: having that 5% figure hit the mainstream. If I could sum up the argument, it would go like this, “The truth is irrelevant. We’ve been lying for so long that people will die if they find out.”

I can’t find a good quote to pull, since it’s so short and packed with lunacy, so go read the whole thing and report back.

Charlie Sheen’s Anti-AA Comments Dangerous for Addicts

If these assholes were truly concerned about people’s lives, they wouldn’t be drawing a bright line under statements that make Sheen sound like he’s gone around the bend. Clearly, they’re trying to discredit the 5% by placing it in the context of some really nutty assertions. But, if they genuinely believe that Sheen is mentally ill, they why are they not, instead, focusing on how irresponsible it would be to send someone to AA whose problems clearly fall outside AA’s scope?

Pressing The Mute’s Buttons

A couple of months ago I wrote this post about AA’s tradition of anonymity, and how AAs use it (and break it) to suit their purposes. Among the reasons for breaking anonymity that I wrote about, were for spin control, and as as an abuse excuse. After reading this op-ed in the Cape Cod Times, I felt compelled to add a third reason: as an appeal for sympathy in order to bilk the good people of Massachusetts out of some more tax money. Continue reading Pressing The Mute’s Buttons

Female Alcoholics, CBT, and some other weird stuff

Here’s an article about how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a promising approach to treating alcoholic women, as opposed to AA. There’s some interesting stuff in there, like this:

Epstein, the principal investigator, has studied this topic at the University since 1989 with co-principal investigator and former University researcher Barbara McCrady, but with couples. She started specifically focusing this summer on alcoholic women who seek group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is skills-based treatment for alcohol use disorders.

“What we found with the couples, with the women, if the woman has a supportive partner who’s willing to come in and do the treatment with her, it’s a good therapy,” Epstein said.

Many women do not have a partner, their partner does not want to come with them or they do not want their partner in treatment with them, she said.

“We wanted to develop a treatment that incorporated social support, but not relying on the spouse for support, because so many women don’t want that option or have that option,” Epstein said.

Their CBT treatments give patients specialized, individualized skills to remain sober, prevent relapse and learn other coping mechanisms for life’s issues. Epstein said those with alcohol use disorder often experience a funneling effect — their life focuses completely around alcohol.

And there’s some weird stuff in there, like this:

Women who abuse alcohol drink more than seven standard drinks — five ounces of wine, one 12-ounce beer or one-and-a-half ounces of hard liquor — a week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

and this:

There has been an increased popularity in CBT therapy instead of the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous, peer-support, 12-step program over the past decade, Epstein said.

“One of the problems with AA over the years is it’s not very flexible to accommodate individual differences among people, so about 40 percent of people who go to AA like it and do well there. The other 60 percent generally don’t do as well and there were not many alternatives for them,” she said.

“Hard Drinkers, Meet Soft Science”

Go read this post over on

In this post I will outline some societal forces that have led to AA’s popularity. I will also argue that the social sciences are integral for crafting new and effective addiction treatments. The ideas and data presented here come in large part from my comparative research on alcohol use and abuse among homeless men, college students, and veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Societal Forces at Play in Biomedicine

AA has been the subject of countless studies, yet reported success rates vary enormously: between 5 and 75 percent. This may be due to AA’s shunning of individual identification and the ease with which members enter and leave the program. However, several studies indicate that AA does not work for everyone and that, for most people, does not work at all.

While scientific support for AA or other 12-step programs is inconclusive, most medical practitioners strongly recommend it as a primary means to treat addiction. In Wired, addiction-medicine specialist Drew Pinsky states: “In my 20 years of treating addicts, I’ve never seen anything that comes close to the 12-steps. In my world, if someone says they don’t want to do the 12-steps, I know they aren’t going to get better.”

This contradiction between the little if any definitive scientific proof that AA reliably treats those suffering from addiction and the wide-spread endorsement of AA by medical and governmental officials raises an important sociological question:

Why do so many science-based medical providers recommend AA?

Addicted to Rehab…

Published in the Washington Post:

We’re Addicted to Rehab. It Doesn’t Even Work. By Bankole A. Johnson

For decades, Americans have clung to a near-religious conviction that rehab — and the 12-step model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous that almost all facilities rely upon — offers effective treatment for alcoholism and other addictions.

Here’s the problem: We have little indication that this treatment is effective. When an alcoholic goes to rehab but does not recover, it is he who is said to have failed. But it is rehab that is failing alcoholics. The therapies offered in most U.S. alcohol treatment centers are so divorced from state-of-the-art of medical knowledge that we might dismiss them as merely quaint — if it weren’t for the fact that alcoholism is a deadly and devastating disease.

And the way we attempt to treat alcoholism isn’t just ineffective, it’s ruinously expensive: Promises Treatment Centers’ Malibu facility, where Lohan reportedly went for her second round of rehab, in 2007, has stunning vistas, gourmet food, poolside lounging and acupuncture. It costs a reported $48,000 a month.

Read the whole thing.