Getting to the bottom of this is crucial to dealing with a big public health problem. Based on federal data, more than 20 million people have a substance use disorder, and within that group, more than 15 million have an alcohol use disorder. Excessive drinking alone is linked to 88,000 deaths each year. So whether one of the most common types of treatment for this disease is actually effective could be a matter of life or death.
The 12 steps, first established in the 1930s by Bill Wilson, have now become a powerhouse in the addiction treatment world, with millions of attendees worldwide each year in AA meetings alone. AA has also spawned a network of affiliated groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Al-Anon (for family and friends of people with alcohol addiction), and more.