On This Day … 10 June

Events

  • 1935 – Dr. Robert Smith takes his last drink, and Alcoholics Anonymous is founded in Akron, Ohio, United States, by him and Bill Wilson.

Dr. Robert Smith

Robert Holbrook Smith (08 August 1879 to 16 November 1950), also known as Dr. Bob, was an American physician and surgeon who founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Bill Wilson (more commonly known as Bill W.).

Family and Early Life

Smith was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where he was raised, to Susan A. (Holbrook) and Walter Perrin Smith. His parents took him to religious services four times a week, and in response he determined he would never attend religious services when he grew up. He graduated from St Johnsbury Academy in 1898, having met his future wife Anne Robinson Ripley at a dance there.

Education, Marriage, Work, and Alcoholism

Smith began drinking at college attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Early on he noticed that he could recover from drinking bouts quicker and easier than his classmates and that he never had headaches, which caused him to believe he was an alcoholic from the time he began drinking. Smith was a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity at Dartmouth. After graduation in 1902, he worked for three years selling hardware in Boston, Chicago, and Montreal and continued drinking heavily. He then returned to school to study medicine at the University of Michigan. By this time drinking had begun to affect him to the point where he began missing classes. His drinking caused him to leave school, but he returned and passed his examinations for his sophomore year. He transferred to Rush Medical College, but his alcoholism worsened to the point that his father was summoned to try to halt his downward trajectory. But his drinking increased and after a dismal showing during final examinations, the university required that he remain for two extra quarters and remain sober during that time as a condition of graduating.

After graduation, Smith became a hospital intern, and for two years he was able to stay busy enough to refrain from heavy drinking. He married Anne Robinson Ripley on January 25, 1915, and opened up his own office in Akron, Ohio, specialising in colorectal surgery and returned to heavy drinking. Recognising his problem, he checked himself into more than a dozen hospitals and sanitariums in an effort to stop his drinking. He was encouraged by the passage of Prohibition in 1919, but soon discovered that the exemption for medicinal alcohol, and bootleggers, could supply more than enough to continue his excessive drinking. For the next 17 years his life revolved around how to subvert his wife’s efforts to stop his drinking and obtain the alcohol he craved while trying to hold together a medical practice in order to support his family and his drinking.

Meeting Bill Wilson

In January 1933, Anne Smith attended a lecture by Frank Buchman, the founder of the Oxford Group. For the next two years she and Smith attended local meetings of the group in an effort to solve his alcoholism, but recovery eluded him until he met Bill Wilson on 12 May 1935. Wilson was an alcoholic who had learned how to stay sober, thus far only for some limited amounts of time, through the Oxford Group in New York, and was close to discovering long-term sobriety by helping other alcoholics. Wilson was in Akron on business that had proven unsuccessful and he was in fear of relapsing. Recognising the danger, he made inquiries about any local alcoholics he could talk to and was referred to Smith by Henrietta Seiberling, one of the leaders of the Akron Oxford Group. After talking to Wilson, Smith stopped drinking and invited Wilson to stay at his home. He relapsed almost a month later while attending a professional convention in Atlantic City. Returning to Akron on 09 June, he was given a few drinks by Wilson to avoid delirium tremens. He drank one beer the next morning to settle his nerves so he could perform an operation, which proved to be the last alcoholic drink he would ever have. The date, 10 June 1935, is celebrated as the anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Final Years

Smith was called the “Prince of Twelfth Steppers” by Wilson because he helped more than 5000 alcoholics before his death. He was able to stay sober from 10 June 1935, until his death in 1950 from colon cancer. He is buried at the Mount Peace Cemetery in Akron, Ohio.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship with the stated purpose of enabling its members to “stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” AA is nonprofessional, non-denominational, self-supporting, and apolitical. Its only membership requirement is a desire to stop drinking. The AA programme of recovery is set forth in the Twelve Steps.

AA was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, when one alcoholic, Bill Wilson, talked to another alcoholic, Bob Smith, about the nature of alcoholism and a possible solution. With the help of other early members, the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism was written in 1939. Its title became the name of the organisation and is today commonly referred to as “The Big Book”. AA’s initial Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946 to help the fellowship be stable and unified while disengaged from “outside issues” and influences.

The Traditions recommend that members remain anonymous in public media, altruistically help other alcoholics, and that AA groups avoid official affiliations with other organisations. They also advise against dogma and coercive hierarchies. Subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous have adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their respective primary purposes.

AA membership has since spread internationally “across diverse cultures holding different beliefs and values”, including geopolitical areas resistant to grassroots movements. As of 2016, close to two million people worldwide are estimated to be members of AA.

Are There Sex Differences in Comorbidity Between Substance Use & Mental Health in Adolescents?

Research Paper Title

Sex Differences in Comorbidity Between Substance Use and Mental Health in Adolescents: Two Sides of the Same Coin.

Background

This study aims to evaluate sex differences in alcohol and cannabis use and mental health disorders (MHD) in adolescents, and to evaluate the predictive role of mental health disorders for alcohol and cannabis use disorders (AUD and CUD respectively).

Method

A sample of 863 adolescents from the general population (53.7% girls, Mage = 16.62, SD = 0.85) completed a computerised battery including questions on substance use frequency, the Brief Symptom Inventory, the Cannabis Problems Questionnaire for Adolescents – Short version, the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index and the DSM-IV-TR criteria for AUD and CUD. Bivariate analyses and binary logistic regressions were performed.

Results

Girls presented significantly more mental health problems and a higher prevalence of comorbidity between SUD and MHD. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms and phobic anxiety indicated a higher risk of AUD, whereas depression and interaction between hostility and obsessive-compulsive disorder indicated a higher risk of CUD.

Conclusions

Comorbidity between SUD and MHD is high among adolescents, and significantly higher among girls.

Reference

Fernandez-Artamendi, S. Martinez-Loredo, V. & Lopez-Nunez, C. (2021) Sex Differences in Comorbidity Between Substance Use and Mental Health in Adolescents: Two Sides of the Same Coin. Psicotherma. 33(1), pp.36-43. doi: 10.7334/psicothema2020.297.

Age at First Drink & Severity of Alcohol Dependence in Military Personnel

Research Paper Title

Age at first drink and severity of alcohol dependence.

Background

Early age at first drink (AFD) has been linked to early onset and increased severity of alcohol dependence in various studies. Few Indian studies on AFD have shown a negative correlation between AFD and severity of alcohol dependence. The study aimed to explore this relationship in patients with alcohol dependence syndrome (ADS) diagnosed using ICD-10 criteria.

Methods

One hundred fifty-one consecutive patients freshly diagnosed with ADS were included in the study, which was conducted at the psychiatry unit of a tertiary care, multispecialty hospital. The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) was used to assess severity of alcohol dependence.

Results

Mean AFD was 24.85 years (range = 13-40 years). Median ASI score was 36 (range = 21 to 57). The study yielded a weak negative correlation (ρ = -.105) between AFD and ASI, which was statistically not significant.

Conclusions

The researchers found no correlation between AFD and severity of alcohol dependence at detection in Indian Armed Forces personnel, which is contrary to what has been reported worldwide and in previous Indian studies. Delayed initiation of alcohol use among those enrolling in the Indian Armed Forces and early detection of alcohol dependence within the military environment are possible explanations.

Reference

Chatterjee, K., Dwivedi, A.K. & Singh, R. (2021) Age at first drink and severity of alcohol dependence. Medical Journal, Armed Forces India. 77(1), pp.70-74. doi: 10.1016/j.mjafi.2019.05.003. Epub 2019 Oct 16.

Linking Anxiety, AUD & GABAB

Research Paper Title

The influence of anxiety symptoms on clinical outcomes during baclofen treatment of alcohol use disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Background

Given the high coexistence of anxiety symptoms in people with alcohol use disorder (AUD), the researchers aimed to determine the influence of anxiety symptoms on outcomes in patients with AUD treated with GABAB receptor agonist baclofen.

Methods

A meta-analysis of 13 comparisons (published 2010-2020) including baseline and outcome data on alcohol consumption and anxiety after 12 weeks was undertaken.

Results

There were significantly higher rates of abstinent days in patients treated with baclofen compared to placebo (p = 0.004; high certainty evidence); specifically in those with higher baseline anxiety levels (p < 0.00001; high certainty evidence) compared to those with lower baseline anxiety levels (p = 0.20; moderate certainty evidence). The change in anxiety ratings over 12 weeks did not differ between those treated with baclofen or placebo (p = 0.84; moderate certainty evidence).

Conclusions

This may be due to different anxiety constructs being measured by scales not validated in this patient group, or that anxiety is not a biobehavioural mechanism by which baclofen may reduce alcohol drinking. Given the prevalence of anxiety symptoms in AUD all these factors warrant further research.

Reference

Agabio, R., Baldwin, D.S., Amaro, H., Leggio, L. & Sinclair, J.M.A. (2021) The influence of anxiety symptoms on clinical outcomes during baclofen treatment of alcohol use disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.12.030. Online ahead of print.

On This Day … 01 January

People (Births)

  • 1946 – Claude Steele, American social psychologist and academic.

Claude Steele

Claude Mason Steele (born January 1, 1946) is a social psychologist and emeritus professor at Stanford University, where he is the I. James Quillen Endowed Dean, Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Emeritus.

Formerly he was the executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley. He also served as the 21st provost of Columbia University for two years. Before that, he had been a professor of psychology at various institutions for almost 40 years.

He is best known for his work on stereotype threat and its application to minority student academic performance. His earlier work dealt with research on the self (like self-image and self-affirmation) as well as the role of self-regulation in addictive behaviours.

In 2010, he released his book, Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, summarising years of research on stereotype threat and the underperformance of minority students in higher education.

Education

He enrolled at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in psychology in 1967.

At Hiram College, Steele’s passion for reading novels led to an interest in how the individual faces the social world. After being fully immersed in the Civil Rights Movement and the issues of racial equality, rights, and the nature of prejudice as a child, Steele formed a desire to study the topics in a scientific manner. He was especially keen to discover their effects on social relationships and quality of life. Steele was inspired by African-American social psychologist Kenneth Clark’s TV appearance discussing the psychological implications of the 1964 race riots in Harlem, New York City, which led to doing behavioural research. Steele conducted early experimental research at Hiram College in physiological psychology (looking at behavioural motives in Siamese fighting fish) and social psychology (studying how African-American dialect among kids maintains ethnic/racial identity), where he worked under the mentorship of social psychologist, Ralph Cebulla.

In graduate school, he studied social psychology, earning an M.A. in 1969 and a Ph.D. in 1971 at Ohio State University, with a minor in statistical psychology. His dissertation work, with faculty adviser Tom Ostrom at Ohio State, focused on attitude measurement and attitude change.

Research

Throughout his academic career, his work fell into three main domains of research under the broad subject area of social psychology: stereotype threat, self-affirmation, and addictive behaviours. Although separate and distinct, the three lines of research are linked by their shared focus on self-evaluation and how people cope with threats to their self-image and self-identities.

  • Addictive Behaviours:
    • Although many people primarily associate Steele with his significant contributions in the development of stereotype threat research, the 14 years of his post-doctoral academic career that he spent at the University of Washington were focused on addictive behaviours and the social psychology behind alcohol use and addiction.
    • He was interested in the role of alcohol and drug use in self-regulation processes and social behaviour.
    • Among his major findings were that alcohol myopia, the cognitive impairment by alcohol use, reduces cognitive dissonance, leads to more extreme social responses, increases helping behaviour, reduces anxiety when it is combined with a distracting activity, and enhances important self-evaluations.
  • Self-Affirmation:
    • While studying the effects of alcohol use on social behaviour, Steele was formulating a theory about the effects of self-affirmation.
    • Developed in the 1980s, self-affirmational processes referred to the ability to reduce threats to self-image by stepping back and affirming a value that is important to self-concept.
    • Steele often uses the example of smokers who are told that smoking will lead to significant negative health outcomes.
    • The perception that they may be evaluated negatively by their willingness to engage in negative behaviours threatens their self-image.
    • However, affirming a value in a domain completely unrelated to smoking but important to one’s self-concept: joining a valued cause, or accomplishing more at work, will counter the negative effects of the self-image threat and re-establish self-integrity.
    • Self-affirmation theory was originally formulated as an alternative motivational explanation for cognitive dissonance theory that threats to the self led to a change in attitudes rather than psychologically inconsistent ideas, and self-affirmational strategies can reduce dissonance as effectively as attitude change.
    • His research on self-affirmation and its effects demonstrated the power of self-affirmation to reduce biased attitudes, lead to positive health behaviours, and even improve the academic performance of minority students.
  • Stereotype Threat:
    • Steele is best known for his work on stereotype threat and its application to explain real-world problems such as the underperformance of female students in mathematics and science classes as well as Black students in academic contexts.
    • Steele first began to explore the issues surrounding stereotype threat at the University of Michigan, when his membership on a university committee called for him to tackle the problem of academic underachievement of minority students at the university.
    • He discovered that the dropout rate for Black students was much higher than for their white peers even though they were good students and had received excellent SAT scores.
    • That led him to form a hypothesis involving stereotype threat.
    • Stereotype threat refers to the threat felt in particular situations in which stereotypes relevant to one’s collective identity exist, and the mere knowledge of the stereotypes can be distracting enough to negatively affect performance in a domain related to the stereotype.
    • Steele has demonstrated the far-reaching implications of stereotype threat by showing that it is more likely to undermine the performance of individuals highly invested in the domain being threatened and that stereotype threat can even lead to Black people having significant negative health outcomes.
    • The theories of stereotype threat can be applied for better understanding group differences in performance not only in intellectual situations but also in athletics.
    • Steele has spearheaded many successful interventions aimed at reducing the negative effects of stereotype threat, including how to provide critical feedback effectively to a student under the effects of stereotype threat, inspired by the motivating style of feedback of his graduate school adviser, Ostrom, and how teacher practices can foster a feeling of identity safety.
    • That would improve performance outcomes by elementary school minority students.

On This Day … 11 November

Events

  • 1934 – Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, takes his last drink and enters treatment for the final time.

People (Deaths)

  • 1966 – Augusta Fox Bronner, American psychologist, specialist in juvenile psychology (b. 1881).
  • 1979 – James J. Gibson, American psychologist and author (b. 1904).

Bill Wilson

You can find an outline of Bill Wilson here.

Augusta Fox Bronner

Augusta Fox Bronner (22 July 1881 to 11 December 1966) was an American psychologist, best known for her work in juvenile psychology. She co-directed the first child guidance clinic, and her research shaped psychological theories about the causes behind child delinquency, emphasizing the need to focus on social and environmental factors over inherited traits.

James J. Gibson

James Jerome Gibson (27 January 1904 to 11 December 1979), was an American psychologist and one of the most important contributors to the field of visual perception. Gibson challenged the idea that the nervous system actively constructs conscious visual perception, and instead promoted ecological psychology, in which the mind directly perceives environmental stimuli without additional cognitive construction or processing.

A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked him as the 88th most cited psychologist of the 20th century, tied with John Garcia, David Rumelhart, Louis Leon Thurstone, Margaret Floy Washburn, and Robert S. Woodworth.

On This Day … 26 November

People (Births)

  • 1895 – Bill W., American activist, co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous (d. 1971).
  • 1936 – Margaret Boden, English computer scientist and psychologist.

People (Deaths)

  • 1987 – J. P. Guilford, American psychologist and academic (b. 1897).

Bill Wilson

William Griffith Wilson (26 November 1895 to 24 January 1971), also known as Bill Wilson or Bill W., was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA is an international mutual aid fellowship with about 2 million members worldwide belonging to approximately 10,000 groups, associations, organizations, cooperatives, and fellowships of alcoholics helping other alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.

Following AA’s Twelfth Tradition of anonymity, Wilson is commonly known as “Bill W.” or “Bill.” In order to communicate among one another, members of “AA” will often ask those who appear to be suffering or having a relapse from alcoholism if they are “friends of Bill”. Although this question can be confusing, because “Bill” is a common name, it does provide a means of establishing a rapport with those who are familiar with the saying and in need of help. After Wilson’s death in 1971, and amidst much controversy within the fellowship, his full name was included in obituaries by journalists who were unaware of the significance of maintaining anonymity within the organisation.

Wilson’s sobriety from alcohol, which he maintained until his death, began 11 December 1934. In 1955 Wilson turned over control of AA to a board of trustees. Wilson died of emphysema complicated by pneumonia in 1971. In 1999 Time listed him as “Bill W.: The Healer” in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.

Margaret Boden

Margaret Ann Boden, OBE, ScD, FBA (born 26 November 1936) is a Research Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex, where her work embraces the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive and computer science.

Boden was appointed lecturer in philosophy at the University of Birmingham in 1959. She became a Harkness Fellow at Harvard University from 1962 to 1964, then returned to Birmingham for a year before moving to a lectureship in philosophy and psychology at Sussex University in 1965, where she was later appointed as Reader then Professor in 1980. She was awarded a PhD in social psychology (specialism: cognitive studies) by Harvard in 1968.

She credits reading “Plans and the Structure of Behaviour” by George A. Miller with giving her the realisation that computer programming approaches could be applied to the whole of psychology.

Boden became Dean of the School of Social Sciences in 1985. Two years later she became the founding Dean of the University of Sussex’s School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences (COGS), precursor of the university’s current Department of Informatics. Since 1997 she has been a Research Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Informatics, where her work encompasses the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive and computer science.

Boden became a Fellow of the British Academy in 1983 and served as its vice-president from 1989 to 1991.[9] Boden is a member of the editorial board for The Rutherford Journal.

In 2001 Boden was awarded an OBE for her services in the field of cognitive science. The same year she was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Sussex. She also received an honorary degree from the University of Bristol. A PhD Scholarship that is awarded annually by the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex was named in her honour.

J.P. Guildford

Joy Paul Guilford (07 March 1897 to 26 November 1987) was an American psychologist best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the distinction between convergent and divergent production.

Developing the views of L.L. Thurstone, Guilford rejected Charles Spearman’s view that intelligence could be characterised in a single numerical parameter. He proposed that three dimensions were necessary for accurate description: operations, content, and products. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Guilford as the 27th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Research: Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review

Research Paper Title:

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review.

Author(s): Conor Farren, Kevin P. Hall, and Roger D. Weiss.

Year: 2012.

Journal: Current Psychiatry Reports.

DOI: 10.1007/s11920-012-0320-9.

Abstract:

Bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder represent a significant comorbid population, which is significantly worse than either diagnosis alone in presentation, duration, co-morbidity, cost, suicide rate, and poor response to treatment.

They share some common characteristics in relation to genetic background, neuroimaging findings, and some biochemical findings.

They can be treated with separate care, or ideally some form of integrated care.

There are a number of pharmacotherapy trials, and psychotherapy trials that can aid program development.

Post-treatment prognosis can be influenced by a number of factors including early abstinence, baseline low anxiety, engagement with an aftercare programme and female gender.

The future development of novel therapies relies upon increased psychiatric and medical awareness of the co-morbidity, and further research into novel therapies for the comorbid group.

You can download a copy of the full paper here.

Book: Molecular Neurobiology of Addiction Recovery

Book Title:

Molecular Neurobiology of Addiction Recovery: The 12 Steps Program and Fellowship (SpringerBriefs in Neuroscience).

Author(s): Kenneth Blum, John Femino, Scott Teitelbaum, John Giordano, Marlene Oscar-Berman, and Mark Gold.

Year: 2013.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Springer.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Since Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, its 12 step programme of spiritual and character development has helped individuals overcome addiction.

This book takes a systematic look at the molecular neurobiology associated with each of the 12 steps.

Book: Ferment – A Memoir of Mental Illness, Redemption, and Winemaking in the Mosel

Book Title:

Ferment – A Memoir of Mental Illness, Redemption, and Winemaking in the Mosel.

Author(s): Patrick Dobson.

Year: 2020.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing.

Type(s): Hardcover and Kindle.

Synopsis:

A deeply moving account of one man’s return to the German town where he first pursued a career in winemaking, and his attempt to reckon with the mental illness, alcoholism, and enduring relationships that defined the most formative chapter of his life.

After an attempted suicide by hanging – with his son in the next room – author Patrick Dobson checks into a mental hospital, clueless, reeling from bone-crushing depression and tortuous, racing thoughts. A long overdue diagnosis of manic depression offers relief but brings his confused and eventful past into question.

To make sense of his suicide attempt and deal with his past, he returns to Germany where, three decades earlier, he arrived as twenty-two-year-old – lost, drunk, and in the throes of untreated mental illness – in search of a new life and with dreams of becoming a winemaker. The sublime Mosel vineyards and the ancient city of Trier changed his life forever.

Ferment charts his days in Trier’s vineyards and cellars, and the enduring friendships that would define his life. A winemaker and his wife become like parents to him. In their son, he finds a brother, whose death years later sends Dobson into a suicidal tailspin. His friends, once apprentices like himself, become leaders in their fields: an art historian and church-restoration expert, an art- and architectural-glass craftsman, a painter and photographer, and a theologian/journalist. The relationships he builds with them become hallmarks of a life well-lived.

In Ferment, Dobson reconnects with the people who stood by him through his dissolution and eventual recovery. In these relationships, he seeks who he was and how his time in Germany changed him. He peers into his memory to understand how manic depression and alcoholism affected who he was then and how his time in Germany made him who he’s become.