Addiction is a chronic disease that affects everyone who suffers from it differently. As a result, there are a variety of treatment options available, and some approaches work better than others for certain individuals. The 12-Step program is just one approach to addiction treatment, but many people have purportedly found success with it. According to National Geographic, it is still a preferred method for achieving and maintaining long-term sobriety.
Popular 12-Step Groups
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
- Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA)
These are five addiction support groups that use the 12-Step model.
1. Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the original 12-Step support group. According to the AA website, the basis of the 12-Step program was established in 1934, and the American Psychological Association reports that seven of its steps feature spirituality.
At its core, Alcoholics Anonymous is a global fellowship of men and women who have suffered from an addiction to alcohol. It is a nonprofessional group of individuals who support one another, and there are no age or education requirements to join. Ultimately, membership is open to anyone who wants to take a proactive approach to addiction treatment or who needs support when it comes to maintaining sobriety, and it has proven to be effective at doing just that.
According to a report originally published in Social Work in Public Health, the median duration of abstinence reported by AA and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) members is more than five years, and approximately 33 percent of the members of AA, NA, and Cocaine Anonymous report maintaining abstinence for 1-5 years.
2. Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous is the largest 12-Step organization after AA. Its members adapted the 12 Steps of AA and adjusted them so they would apply to individuals who are trying to quit narcotics. While narcotics are technically drugs that are designed to induce sleep, the term is often used to refer to all illegal drugs. Narcotics include:
In the NA 12-Step program, individuals focus on recovering from addiction rather than on the particular drugs that they might have abused. In addition to the steps, there are 12 Traditions of NA and the third one states that the only requirement for membership is that individuals possess a desire to stop using.
Like other 12-Step support groups, NA hosts regular meetings, which are held in a variety of places, including libraries, hospitals, churches, and community centers. There are two meeting formats: opened and closed. Anyone can attend an open meeting, including family members and friends of those suffering from addiction, but closed meetings are limited to those who actually abuse drugs.
NA meetings are similar to AA meetings in that they usually begin with reading some of the relevant literature out loud. A chairperson conducts the meetings and chooses individuals who want to speak. Some meetings have an “open sharing” portion during with members can talk about their experiences without fear of judgment or ridicule.
3. Cocaine Anonymous
Individuals who suffer from addiction to cocaine can join Cocaine Anonymous (CA), where they will find a mutual support group that has adapted the 12-Step program to treat cocaine addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.5 million people admitted to using cocaine in a 30-day period in 2014, and The New York Times reports that 17 percent of people who try cocaine develop a dependence on it.
The only requirement for obtaining membership in CA is the desire to stop using mind-altering substances like cocaine. There are no fees or membership dues, and each group supports itself through contributions from its own members. CA does not accept donations from outside organizations or individuals who are not members of the fellowship. Though they are a spiritual organization and embrace the faith-based side of the 12 Steps, they do not align with any particular religious denomination or group.
4. Crystal Meth Anonymous
Although addiction is a disease that is characterized by specific signs, symptoms, and behaviors, the effects it has on each person’s life vary depending on a variety of factors, including which substance the individual actually abuses. Members at an NA or CA meeting will not turn away someone who is suffering from an addiction to methamphetamine, but that individual may find more relevant, empathetic support at Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA).
Members of CMA share their struggles and strengths with one another as they pursue and maintain sobriety. CMA support groups are most active in the major metropolitan areas of the United States, though individuals who live in more suburban areas are welcome to start their own meeting groups.
5. Dual Recovery Anonymous
Research has indicated that individuals with certain psychological conditions may be more prone to developing addiction than others. In addition, some studies have demonstrated that excessive drug use can lead to conditions like depression and some anxiety disorders. At Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA), it does not matter whether the psychiatric illness or the addiction manifested symptoms first; all that matters is that members want to improve their lives.
During DRA meetings, members encourage each other to find their own personal paths to recovery because everyone’s battle is different. Like the other 12-Step groups, there is a spiritual dimension to the DRA approach.
A Group for Everyone
The 12-Step approach has been helping individuals maintain sobriety for decades, but addiction is not characterized by substance abuse. Rather, it is characterized by certain behaviors and psychological symptoms. That means it is possible to develop an addiction to something other than drugs or alcohol, and there are a number of 12-Step groups that address these types of addiction as well. These include:
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Sexaholics Anonymous
- Debtors Anonymous
- Overeaters Anonymous
Joining a 12-Step support group and attending meetings is just one component of addiction treatment, but it is a helpful and even necessary component for many, especially when it comes to maintaining sobriety long after traditional treatment has ended. In addition, there are a variety of support groups for family members of those who are currently partaking in a 12-Step program, which many people find both enlightening and comforting.
Related Reading: Non 12-Step Groups