Should drug addicts attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous? My answer is, "Yes." However,I am aware of the controversial nature of this subject and that there are some complicated issues involved in drug addicts attending AA, including whether a drug addictwho has not diagnosed himself to be an alcoholic,qualifies for AA membership.

I think a key point is this: The AA Traditions (Number 3) state that the only requirement for membership in AA is a "desire to stop drinking."; so, just on that authority, in my opinion, a drug addict without any history of problematic alcohol use,can become a member of AA without doing any violence to the AA traditions.For the following reasons,a drug addict in, or desiring to have. a solid recovery should have a desire to stop drinking:1) alcohol is a drug; 2) use of alcohol will impair the recovering addict's judgment thereby making him/her more vulnerable to thoughts or occasions to use drugs; 3) either you are abstinent from all drugs of abuse, or you are not; and 4) use of any psychoactive agent including alcohol will tend to interfere with any spiritual relationship the recovering addict may have with a source of spiritual strength (Higher Power).

Bill Wilson, a co-founder of AA, however, came down on the side of not including non-alcoholic drug addicts as AA members, stating in a pamphlet titled,Problems Other than Alcohol(The AA Grapevine, Inc., February 1958):

"Our first duty, as a society, is to insure our own survival. Therefore, we have to avoid distractions and multipurpose activity. An A.A. group, as such, cannot take on all the personal problems of its members, let alone the problems of the whole world. Sobriety — freedom from alcohol — through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is the sole purpose of an A.A. group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities, and they have always failed. It has also been learned that there is no possible way to make nonalcoholics into A.A. members."

For the declaration that there is no possible way to make nonalcoholics into AA members,Bill Wilson cited how family members and nonalcoholic friends of AA were unable to relate to AA members and would have difficulty doing Twelfth Step work, not an argumentseemingly relevantto the issue of non-alcoholic or alcoholic drug addicts as AA members.

Although not wishing to appear presumptuous in arguing against a position taken by the founder of AA, an organization that has saved many lives including my own, I will go ahead and briefly address Bill Wilson's justifications of his position and apologize in advance for the lack of scientific research to bring to bear on this matter (there is very little).

Although citing the AA Traditions to support his position on non-alcoholics not being AA members, Bill Wilson does not even mention Tradition Three: "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking."

In the 57 years since Bill Wilson's monograph on this subject (the 12 Traditions were adopted in 1950), there has been, at least anecdotally, a significant increase in young AA members, an increase in young AA members with a history of both drug and alcohol addiction, and an increase in young members in AA who are non-alcoholic drug addicts. There is also some research (not altogether scientific) suggesting that the number of AA members under the age of 40 has grown to 26% (Alcoholics AnonymousMembership Survey2014). AA does not have statistics on how many of the AA members under 40 have a diagnosis of both alcoholism and drug addiction or how many may be non-alcoholic drug addict members. There are data that document (available on request) that the vast majority of individuals 30-40 years of age or younger with a primary diagnosis of alcohol addiction have histories of problematic drug use (often marijuana) and that those in that age range witha primary diagnosis of drug addiction have histories of problematic alcohol use. So, one can postulate that a significant number of the 26% of AA members under the age of 40 (AAMembership Survey) probably have a history of problematic use of both alcohol and other drugs.

AA seems to have absorbed the increase in younger members with both alcohol and drug addiction without any of the threats to its survival that Bill Wilson feared over 57 years ago. There are over 115,000 AA groups worldwide, with an estimated 2,040,629 members (AAstatistics). Anecdotally, in my experience, AA members with significant drug histories either place the emphasis on the alcohol portion of their stories when sharing at AA meetings or speak generally about their non-alcohol addiction. Some meetings make a statement at the beginning of the meeting that those present should confine their remarks to their experience with alcohol. This admonition seems, in my experience, to be effective.

I have not made an exhaustive study of AA literature and historical documentation and, of course, do not have data about the AA experience with alcoholic drug addict and non-alcoholic drug addict members across the U.S. I invite those with additional evidence, scientific or anecdotal, to add to this, now unduly long. post aboutthe issue of drug addicts attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

As always, comments are invited, Jan Edward Williams,, 09/06/2015.


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