Friday, July 16, 2010

Shouldn't we demand better statistical outcomes?

I write about alcoholism from time to time in this blog because I feel it has much common ground with schizophrenia. There is the condition itself, which I consider a spiritual conflict, but there is also the framework of Alcoholics Anonymous, involving a program, similar in some ways to the day program that our family was involved with for schizophrenia. AA is run by its members, not by medical professionals. In this regard, it is not like our day program.

No program is above criticism, and there is an interesting piece today from the Huffington Post that raises the question, how come, after seventy-five years of AA there aren't more success stories?

Given that AA started in 1935, that it is still not proven to be successful is beginning to be a bit worrisome. Do drinking and drug problems, alcoholism and addiction, seem to be improving in the United States? (Hint: according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 25 percent of 21-year-old Americans have a diagnosable drug or alcohol problem -- far and away most often an alcohol problem.) Don't you think we might be doing a little better in this area after 75 years?

Robert Whitaker asks these kinds of questions and more in his new book Anatomy of an Epidemic. These kinds of questions kick-started my interest in alternative therapies. Surely, I thought, there should be better outcomes after all these years for schizophrenia than the bleak picture that is usually presented. There are better outcomes, but you've got to do a little digging to find out where they are.

These questions need to be explored, not just for AA but for current approaches to schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. Most people will not recover in a program - they will recover when they get to the bottom of whatever it is that is troubling them and when they begin to accept personal responsibility. That is why, as the article points out, a wide variety of treatment options should be available. There is no one size fits all when it comes to mental health.

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