Are 12 Step programs successful?
There has been controversy over how successful 12 step programs are. Early proponents claimed that they were as high as 50%. Some critics have suggested they are ineffective, helping only 5% overcome an addiction. There are many 12 step programs available for various addictions: alcohol. gambling, sexual addictions, Crystal Meth addictions, etc. They are not all exactly the same, but nearly all involve invoking a higher power beyond self. Bringing God or something more powerful than self is what offends some of the critics.
Both sides of the debate are probably right because the success rate goes up the longer the person sticks with the program. Of those in their first month of AA meetings, only 26% will be there and sober at the end of the year. Of those in their fourth month 50% will be there and sober at the end of a year. AA says that a 1983 survey showed that 25% were sober after 5 years, while a 2004 survey showed that 50% were sober after 5 years in the program, suggesting that the program was becoming more effective. The average rate of sobriety for members of AA is 8 years. Gamblers Anonymous does not seem as successful. Of those who attend GA initially only 8% are still abstinent and in the program after a year. Another group, the Crystal Meth Anonymous claims that the use of casual partners and unprotected anal intercourse has dropped by two-thirds,
The results vary by group, and by how long the person stays with the program. And then there are those who stay in a program for a year or two but then remain abstinent for many years afterward. These tend to drop out of the statistics. There is no doubt that the programs help a sizable percentage of those who last a year in the programs. So the critics may be right that for those who attend an initial meeting only 5% (or a little more) last a year. For those who attend for five to ten years, 50% or more may stick with abstinence for life.