An “Historic” Invitation to Cuba for Alcoholics Anonymous

For Immediate Release

January 25, 2019

From November 7-9, 2018, almost 100 doctors, addiction specialists, social workers, nurses and medical students gathered for the Third International Meeting Against Drug Addiction (“Lifestyles vs. Toxic Habits”) held in the city of Guantánamo,  Guantánamo Province, Cuba. They came from Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia, as well as from the Cuban provinces of Havana, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Granma, and Santiago de Cuba.

And, for the first time, Alcoholics Anonymous was there.

“We were invited by the Cuban Health Ministry to participate,” says Dr. Peter Luongo, the Class A (nonalcoholic) trustee of the General Service Board whose experience in the alcoholism treatment field extends over 30 years and who is currently Executive Director of the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA). “I think all of us recognized that this was historic.”

While A.A. meetings have been held for years in Cuba — and the country has its own General Service structure — there has until now been no official recognition of Alcoholics Anonymous as a civil organization by the Cuban government, which means A.A. has not been able to have an official office or even a telephone line, despite the fact that the country has an estimated 1,700 members and 100 groups.

Scott H., A.A.’s Trustee-at-Large for Canada — who in a previous trip to Cuba saw “the hunger for A.A.” — believes that the conference “is definitely a step in the right direction, maybe even a tipping point” for A.A. in Cuba. He and Dr. Luongo both credit Dr. Anselma Betancourt Pulsan, the alcoholism specialist who was chair of the organizing committee for the conference, as being instrumental in securing the invitation for Alcoholics Anonymous.

A highlight of the conference was Dr. Luongo’s talk “Healthcare Professionals and A.A.,” in which he outlined the ways in which A.A. and the medical profession can work together to help address the problem of alcoholism. He pointed out that, despite his years of training on addiction, he never really learned anything about alcoholism until he met sober alcoholics who were in A.A. and working in the treatment field. “I learned from them how important it is to incorporate Alcoholics Anonymous into the way we treat alcoholics.”

For more information, contact the Public Information desk at the General Service Office at publicinfo@aa.org or (212) 870-3119.

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