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Is There Science Behind the “Spiritual Solution” of the 12 Steps?

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The 12 steps emerged with the founding of Alcoholic Anonymous in the 30’s. Based on spiritual principles from The Oxford Group, they were designed to admit one’s faults, accept personal powerlessness, make amends, and be of service. They were recognized by medical practitioners at the time of their inception as the only cure for the hopeless alcoholic.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous has a letter from Dr. William D. Silkworth. In it, he states, “In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to recreate their lives.” He goes on to say, “once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.”

A man of science declares the solution for hopeless alcoholics is the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. While AA has been declared the best solution for the treatment of chronic alcoholism, the truth is there have been very few studies to scientifically prove AA works.

One study, conducted by Dr. Lee Ann Kaskutas invited over 300 alcoholics to report back on their sobriety. They checked in at 30 days, 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years into recovery. The study found an 86% success rate for those actively involved in AA, vs. a 43% abstinent rate for those with low involvement.

The Project Match study found the group randomly assigned to 12 step treatment were twice as likely to be abstinent a year after treatment. While more research and data are need to validate the success those in AA experience, some research is present to show the 12 steps work.

The 12 steps are spiritual. In a newer field called neurotheology, researchers examine the impact of spirituality on the brain. The have found the brains of those who spend hours in prayer and meditation are different. Prayer and meditation are a cornerstone of the 12 step program of recovery. Brain scans of those deep in prayer showed parietal lobes going dark.

AA’s success is not based on scientific research. It is based on countless recovering alcoholics who share their success. More research is needed to validate the science behind the 12 steps. With the emergence of neurotheology, more will be revealed. For now, if you are skeptical about AA and have a drinking problem, you can be guided by the research that does exist. Those actively involved in AA have a significantly better chance of sobriety than others.

One step at a time, one day at a time, you can recover. At Design For Change, we offer refuge to those seeking to win against addiction because there is freedom in recovery. There is hope. Call us today to learn more about our long-term treatment programs and recovery services creating change, one step at a time. (877) 267-3646

Is There Science Behind the "Spiritual Solution" of the 12 Steps?