Letter: Twelve helpful steps that can also hinder

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AS Ursula Kenny suggests, many people have benefited from AA and its "12-step" offshoots; for some, the movement's internalised authoritarianism may be a necessary antidote to behaviour that has lost all sense of personal or social boundaries.

That said, the movement has from the first been associated with the political right. The 12 steps are based on the ideas of Frank Buchman, a disagreeable character who founded the so-called "Oxford Group" and was notorious for his adulation of the Nazis. In the Fifties, Buchman's "Moral Rearmament" came to function as an ideological arm of US foreign policy, embodying some of its least attractive features, including the cultivation of brutal right-wing regimes.

Despite AA's claim to the contrary, the movement remains profoundly political. The AA disease model of alcohol and other drug dependence, coupled with the insistence that this "disease" is located solely within the individual, is the main reason for the spectacular failure of the US to address the social and epidemiological dimensions of drug use, and for the diversion of resources into the ineffectual "drugs war".

Alan MacColl, St Andrews

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