Crime And Treatment | The Failure Of 12-Step Program

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Hi, this is Stephen Cobb with a very special edition of Florida Criminal Law where we are talking about crime and treatment. Now, where we left off was a discussion of the problems with Florida’s different treatment programs, whether they are special conditions of probation or a more formal program like the Keeton Facility where people often get sent for drug and alcohol problems. If you want to really understand why Florida has a real problem with rehabilitation and spends a large amount of money of its tax dollars basically lighting them on fire, it is a combination of a false belief system that is not scientific and a lack of funding.

Now, let’s dispense with these in reverse order because lack of funding is very basic and very short. They just do not appropriate the money needed but amazingly, we have enough money to make just about everything illegal in Florida, minor in possession of alcohol could be a $50 ticket instead of a criminal charge. But, of course, we don’t do that. Marijuana is criminalized to the point of ridiculousness where the actual statute 89313 specifically states that marijuana is so dangerous it cannot even be used or experimented on safely. We know that is a lie. And so, we have these types of things all through our system and now we are moving over into beliefs. The problem with things like drug court and much of what we have as rehabilitative treatment in the Florida criminal justice system can best be described as faith healing.

And yes, I am going to give 12-step a very, very hard time for one basic reason. Seven of the 12 steps are faith-based, and that in and of itself is not a problem if they are scientifically valid and actually work. But then we run into the second problem. They are not scientifically valid and they do not work. Instead, we tell people one of the steps. It works if you work it. And then, when it reasonably, foreseeably does not work, what do we do? We blame the patient, giving them the wrong treatment, blame the patient. Now, how do I know that it does not work? Well, just do a few Google searches, Google Scholar is outstanding, look at the hardcore data and ask hard questions because as Tony Robin says, “Questions are the answer”. And questions such as “What is the 5-year effectiveness rate of 12 steps?” When you start Googling those types of questions, you are going to run into different types of responses but one is going to be, “It works and our program is wonderful”, and you are going to run into the other section that says, “No, it works about 3 to 5% of the time”.

Now, think about it. If a medication worked 3 to 5% of the time, in other words, it had a 95% plus failure rate, do you think that FDA would allow it on the market? I would suggest not. Yet because of our culture, of the 12-step mythology, the faith-based aspect fits into our southern culture so well that we end up having a situation where people are ordered into different forms of 12-step even by not that name in drug court and other types of rehabilitative treatment in Florida. The reason this is problematic from a scientific standpoint goes back to that child falling off the roof of a car. You need to take diagnostic imaging specifically, and I want you to think about this. Doesn’t it amaze you that someone can go to a doctor, a psychiatrist trained in treating the brain, talk to that psychiatrist for 45 minutes answering questions, and at the end of that time, without single nuclear imaging of the brain being performed, that person will walk out with chemical surgery in their hand in the form of a prescription.

What is wrong with that picture besides? Well, everything. In no other area of medicine do we do this. Why do we do this? Obviously, because insurance companies do not want to pay. So, within the criminal justice system, we actually use this failure path that the criminal justice system embarks upon and we reverse it, flip the script and we use it to help you or someone you love. And I’ll cover that in more detail in the next part of this exciting series “Crime and Treatment” as part of Florida criminal law TV.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.