Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work for Drug Addicts?

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drug addicts

Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is a 12 Step program that was founded in 1935 and was designed to help people of all ages and walks of life overcome alcoholism and maintain a life of sobriety. The official AA website states, “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who come together to solve their drinking problem.  It doesn’t cost anything to attend AA meetings. There are no age or education requirements to participate. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about their drinking problem.” Since its inception, numerous studies have been conducted on the efficacy of AA. One scientific study published by Stanford Medicine states, “Alcoholics Anonymous, the worldwide fellowship of sobriety seekers, is the most effective path to abstinence, according to a comprehensive analysis conducted by a Stanford School of Medicine researcher and his collaborators. After evaluating 35 studies — involving the work of 145 scientists and the outcomes of 10,080 participants — Keith Humphreys, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and his fellow investigators determined that AA was nearly always found to be more effective than psychotherapy in achieving abstinence. In addition, most studies showed that AA participation lowered health care costs.”

There is no question that AA is an extremely effective treatment option for those suffering from alcohol use disorders of any severity. But what about those who are struggling with a drug addiction; those who have been misusing prescription medications or who have become addicted to an illegal substance like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine? Does AA also work for drug addicts?

Over time, the demographics of AA have changed. Anyone with a substance use issue is welcome to attend, and the 12 Steps are laid out in such a way that they can be effective regardless of the type of substance being used. However, there is an alternative 12 Step program for those with drug addictions — Narcotics Anonymous. Continue reading to learn more about AAs efficacy for drug addiction and alternative treatment options, and contact us today with any additional questions you might have.

About Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

When Alcoholics Anonymous was first developed in 1935, it was designed exclusively for men suffering from alcoholism. As the efficacy of the program was proven over time and as more was understood about the nature of alcohol use disorder, the program expanded to include people of all ages, personal backgrounds, and genders, and was extended to those struggling with substance use disorders of any kind (not just alcoholism). In the early 1950s a group of people struggling with drug addiction approached the founders of AA and said, “Hey, we know your program works, but it isn’t really inclusive of people like us — people who are addicted to drugs. We’d like permission to open our own branch, which we would call Addicts Anonymous.” The founders of AA said, “That sounds like a great idea, but Addicts Anonymous would shorten to AA; can you think of a different name for the group?” Thus, NA was born.

The official Narcotics Anonymous website explains the 12 Step program as, “A global, community-based organization with a multilingual and multicultural membership. NA was founded in 1953, and our membership growth was minimal during our initial twenty years as an organization. Since the publication of our Basic Text in 1983, the number of members and meetings has increased dramatically. Today, NA members hold nearly 76,000 meetings weekly in 143 countries. We offer recovery from the effects of addiction through working a twelve-step program, including regular attendance at group meetings. The group atmosphere provides help from peers and offers an ongoing support network for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Our name, Narcotics Anonymous, is not meant to imply a focus on any particular drug; NA’s approach makes no distinction between drugs including alcohol. Membership is free, and we have no affiliation with any organizations outside of NA including governments, religions, law enforcement groups, or medical and psychiatric associations. Through all of our service efforts and our cooperation with others seeking to help addicts, we strive to reach a day when every addict in the world has an opportunity to experience our message of recovery in his or her own language and culture.”

Are AA and NA the Same?

The Steps and Principles laid out in both AA and NA are very similar, and both fellowships focus on the maintenance of sobriety through the fostering of spiritual connection, community, and personal growth. However, there are certain differences between the two fellowships. These differences include:

  • In AA you identify as an “alcoholic,” in NA you identify as an “addict.” Many meetings don’t have any hard and fast rules about how you identify, as long as you have a desire to quit drinking and using drugs. However, many old timers will encourage you to “respect the house you’re in” by identifying as an alcoholic while in an AA meeting, even if alcohol was not your substance of choice.
  • AA meetings tend to be more widely accessible. An article published by the National Institutes of Health reads, “Because of the lower availability of NA compared with AA meetings, especially in suburban or rural communities, many with primary drug problems other than alcohol, may find it more difficult to access NA meetings, despite them being potentially more relevant and closely matched to their specific addiction histories, experiences and recovery preferences.” Because AA is more accessible, many individuals with drug problems choose to work the AA program.
  • The Steps are different in their wording, but they are structured very similarly. The main difference is in the literature. AA uses the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as its main text, while NA uses the Basic Text as well as a specially designed workbook.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a substance use disorder of any type or severity, 12 Step Illinois is available to help. We understand how difficult it can be to come to terms with a substance use disorder, and we know that reaching out for help takes an immense amount of courage. Fortunately, as soon as you make the decision to ask for the help you need, we will be available to help guide you through the remainder of the early recovery process. First of all, it is important to determine which treatment options are going to be the most appropriate for your unique case. If you or your loved one is suffering from a moderate or severe alcohol use disorder and any co-occurring issues, entering into a multi-staged treatment program might be the best option. Because the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous when left untreated, medical detoxification could be a necessary first step. In some cases, medical detox should be immediately followed up by a higher level of care, like inpatient rehab or partial hospitalization (PHP). To learn more about treatment options in Illinois, contact us today. In some instances, engagement in a 12 Step program in Illinois can be effective as a standalone treatment option. We encourage you to reach out today for more information on 12 Step meetings in your immediate area. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you out however we can.

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