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Do 12-Step Treatment Programs Work?

If you have struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, you have likely heard of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These typically free programs use group meetings to help individuals maintain sobriety. Through peer support, in these programs, you learn to build healthy habits for dealing with stress and other triggers. However, whether you’ve been to 12-step programs before or not, you might wonder about the efficacy of 12-step programs.

What Are 12-Step Programs?

While AA is the most popular and ubiquitous 12-step program, similar programs exist for a number of substance abuse issues. These include Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, and even groups to support the loved ones of those suffering from addiction. These groups are patterned after AA and follow similar principles. The “steps” of 12-step programs are typically modeled after the following:

  • Admitting powerlessness over alcohol and recognizing that addiction is unmanageable
  • Believing that a power higher than ourselves can help us to restore our health and mental clarity
  • Deciding to turn our lives and our will over to a higher power, which can be defined in a number of ways
  • Conducting an honest, fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Admitting all wrongs we’ve committed to ourselves, our higher power, and to any other human being.
  • Being ready for our higher power to remove all of these character defects
  • Asking for our higher power to remove these defects
  • Creating a list of those who we have hurt in any way and making amends to them if they desire
  • Making those amends whenever possible, except when doing so would further harm that individual
  • Continuing to take an ongoing personal inventory and admitting wrongdoing openly 
  • Improving connection and communication with our higher power through prayer and meditation
  • Engaging in a spiritual awakening through this process and maintaining these beliefs throughout all of life

In meetings for 12-step programs, members share their experiences with sobriety and their progress with the steps. Members can find social support in these programs, which can be a powerful tool in addiction recovery. While meetings can be structured in various ways, each program focuses on the idea that an addiction to alcohol is a disease to be managed, and that recovery can be a lifelong process.

What Is the Efficacy of 12-Step Programs??

Recent research shows that 12-step programs are an effective, safe option for addiction treatment. Between 22 and 37 percent of those in AA remained abstinent, compared to 15 to 25 percent of individuals in other treatment programs. 12-step programs like AA can even be more effective than other widely used treatment methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

In addition to the effectiveness of treatment from 12-step programs, they are typically free and widely available, making them an invaluable resource for overcoming addiction. This is one reason why AA meetings are so effective—there are no barriers to attend. Instead of needing an appointment, you can just show up and participate. If the cost of addiction treatment has kept you from accessing the care you need, these meetings can help you stay sober without worrying about your finances. 

Many individuals in recovery also attend 12-step program meetings while in another kind of treatment program, like an outpatient program or individual counseling. When paired with other treatment, 12-step programs can be even more effective. 

Find 12-Step Programs Near You

WeRecover can help you find addiction treatment programs, including 12-step programs, that are right for your unique needs. Whether you’re concerned about the type of treatment program you enter, the cost of treatment, or the amenities you’ll find at a treatment center, we’ll match you with addiction treatment that you can trust. Reach out today to learn more and find 12-step programs near you.

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