AA certainly helps people, according to Brennan. “It would’ve died out years ago if it didn’t,” he said.
But, Brennan added, many people struggling with their drinking do not even know there are treatment options — and they should.
“Over the years, we’ve come to realize that addictions are medical conditions,” Brennan said.
His recommendation to people who feel their drinking is out of control: First, see a health care professional for an evaluation. Many people, for example, drink to “self-medicate” depression or other mental health issues, and it’s important to address those conditions.
An estimated 15 million Americans have alcohol use disorder, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Of those who get treatment, the agency says, about one-third have no symptoms a year later; many others reduce their drinking.
With AA, the goal is complete abstinence from drinking. But behavioral counseling — such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy — generally has a different view, Brennan said. It aims to change drinking behavior and its consequences.
With CBT, for example, the goal is to change the thought processes that lead to excessive drinking and to develop ways to