If you listen to fervent advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, you might believe that even taking a sip of an adult beverage and getting behind the wheel puts everyone else on the roadways in grave danger. In reality, it's the heavy, out-of-control drinkers who are most often arrested on DUI charges.
There are similar misconceptions about alcohol abuse and treatment. Americans have it drilled into their heads that 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are the only real way to cure alcoholism. But the truth is, there are much more effective ways of addressing drinking-related problems.
The most reliable research on the success rate of AA is between 5% and 8% - far from the advertised 75% rate of the organization.
According to The Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches, out of 48 suggested treatment methods for alcoholism, 12-step programs rank 38th.
A federally-funded survey found that about 20% of alcohol dependent individuals subsequently continue to consume alcohol in reasonable amounts later in their lives with no ill-effects.
AA was originally designed to address severe drinkers; but today, only 15% of those with alcohol use-disorder are considered to be extremely heavy imbibers.
Clinical trials involving naltrexone, a medication which has been on the U.S. market since the 1990s, reveal a 78% success rate in getting alcoholics to control their drinking urges - without quitting cold turkey.
If we can finally learn to embrace science-based methods to combating alcoholism, maybe more reasonable approaches to drinking and driving will soon follow.