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The Mystery Of Alcoholics Anonymous

To further emphasize my admiration for superb sci/med/health writing, I wish to add another writer to my growing blog category of “Journalists, Awesome.”

Via my drug abuse research colleague, DrugMonkey, my attention was drawn to a new Wired magazine article by Brendan I. Koerner entitled, Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works. I strongly recommend this long-form article for anyone in the field of substance abuse and dependence research, psychology and general clinical research, students of excellent science writing, alcoholics and their family members, and anyone who thinks that good science writing no longer exists.

I don’t want to influence your views any further, other than to say that since I poured my first whiskey and water for my grandmother when I was around 7, I’ve had a longstanding interest in why Alcoholics Anonymous helps so many alcohol-dependent folks kick the disease for decades while others trying the approach continue to crash and burn or otherwise abhor its very tenets, especially the “Higher Power” focus. The reader comments there also reflect this bipolar view of the unorganized organization.

Regular readers will also recall that PharmDad died of alcoholism at age 58 after two rounds of inpatient rehab at a nationally-renowned facility — he despised AA even though we had been ardent churchgoers when I was a kid.

The only other thing I will say about the article is that I hypothesize, as a natural products pharmacologist, is that AA-founder Bill Wilson’s hospital room encounter with God was more than likely a hallucination induced by the Belladonna alkaloids he had been given as part of the addiction treatment regimens of the 1930s.

I’m also now going through some of Brendan Koerner’s online writing and photos at his personal site, YouThrobber, and blog (Microkhan) and have just started following him on Twitter. Some may know Koerner from his Wired piece earlier this year, How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive, but he also cites other reader favorites such as Why Is Antifreeze So Delicious?, Where Do “Cakewalks” Come From?, and The Long, Slow, Tortuous Death of Zima. It seems that his most recent gig with Wired has given him even more latitude. Koerner is also the author of the book, Now The Hell Will Start,

But, please, go read his long article on Alcoholics Anonymous. Yes, you may need to bookmark it to read later this evening, but please do. He definitely sounds like someone I’d love to have a drink with.

Addendum #1: Koerner also notes in a recent blogpost on Project MATCH that David Brooks editorialized about his Wired piece in The New York Times on Monday.

Addendum #2: I am just realized upon re-reading the article that while Koerner hyperlinks extensively to external sites for explanations of various terms and characters, he doesn’t link to the primary literature when he cites it in the article. I’d really love to ask him why that is.

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*


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