The 95% First Year
Dropout Myth

by Loran Archer

  Some of the critics claim that modern A.A. has a dismally low success rate, only 5% or less. These figures, Archer says, are inaccurate and based on flawed statistics. They cannot be supported either from U.S. government research or from A.A.'s own careful records.

THE CORRECT FIGURE IS A CLOSE TO 36% SUCCESS RATE, when measured in the same way that the government would evaluate success in treating diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.

The 95% dropout rate [claimed by some of A.A.'s modern critics] is inaccurate and based on flawed statistics.

Rather than 5% of A.A. members remaining at the end of one year a more accurate estimate is that 36% remain attending A.A. at the end of one year and 32% are still attending at the end of 20 years.

The 1989 GSO internal memo "Comments on A.A.'s Triennial Surveys," Appendix C: "The First Year" has been widely misquoted as a measure of retention or dropouts. It is not a measure of retention or dropout, it is a simple frequency distribution of individuals by months since first came to AA and is limited to individuals with 12 or fewer months.

The limitations of the A.A. membership surveys are well described in the GSO internal memo on page 4. A major limitation is the significant under counting of the A.A. membership resulting from the many groups that were not surveyed.

The most recent "A.A. Fact File" that I received from GSO shows the estimated A. A. membership in the U.S. as 1,168,990 members.

This is a significant undercount of members.

Using a national representative survey of the U.S., in the NIAAA 1991-1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES), I found that in 1991-1992, 2.4 million individuals reported attending an A.A. meeting during the last year.

I have posted a brief summary of my findings on A.A. membership on my website Alcohol Reports as a Data Brief, dated July 29, 2007.

Loran Archer

  Loran Archer has long been one of America's leading experts on alcoholism, serving in key positions at NIAAA after being recruited from the position of Director of the California Office of Alcoholism. In the later 1980s, he was:
Deputy Director
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
He is one of the contributors to ALCOHOL REPORTS, an international website dedicated to providing current information on news, newsletters, reports,publications, abstracts of peer-reviewed research articles and data briefs concerning alcoholism and alcohol-related problems throughout the world:

-Loran Archer
-Thomasina Borkman
-Tom Colhurst
-Jared Lobdell
-Albert Pawlowski
-Don Phillips
-Tim Stockwell
- Philippe Arvers
- Prasantha De Silva
-Libby Ranzetta
- Peggy Seo Oba
- Paul M Roman

This note originally appeared as Message 4447 on the AAHistoryLovers website on July 30, 2007. The AAHistoryLovers has over 1,500 members from all over the globe, and includes among its members most of the authors who have published the top books on A.A. history over the past thirty years, plus the majority of A.A.'s top archivists.