More often than not, drug addicts have alcoholism as a co-occurring condition. This bad combination often leads to a variety of consequences, such as deaths stemming from homicides, accidents, and suicides. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, both substances can lead to physical aggression and sexual assault as well.
With these effects, more and more drug addicts are considering going to 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). However, some are taken aback by the issue of whether or not drug addicts can go to AA.
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What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
AA is an international fellowship of non-professional people who have experienced drinking problems. Available almost anywhere, AA prides itself to be multiracial, apolitical, and self-supporting. It is open to all people with alcoholism, regardless of their age or education.
The 12 steps of AA are:
- Participants should admit that they are powerless over alcohol – and that their lives have become unmanageable.
- There is a belief that a greater power can restore one to sanity.
- Turn your will – and your life – to God.
- There is a need to do a fearless moral inventory.
- Admit to God, yourself, and other people that you have done wrong.
- Be ready for God as he may help remove all of your character defects.
- Ask God to remove all your shortcomings.
- Make a list of all the people you have harmed – and make amends with them all.
- Make amends with the people around you whenever possible.
- Take a good look at yourself and admit to your wrongdoings.
- Prayer and meditation can help improve your conscious contact with God.
- Carry the message of this awakening to other alcoholics – whilst practicing them in one’s own affairs.
Can Drug Addicts Go to AA?
Yes. As mentioned, it is open to all people who would like to turn away from alcoholism. This may be helpful if drinking is a co-occurring problem. That’s because AA aims to promote stronger identification that leads to better group cohesion and a deeper sense of universality. As such, it can help with the sharing of strategies that help with recovery.
Why Drug Addicts Go to AA?
Although there are many mutual-help organizations geared towards drug abuse such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA), more addicts go to AA because of its widespread availability. Whereas AA has 60,000 meetings per week, NA only has about 20,000. This limited availability, especially in far-flung areas, has led many addicts to attend AA instead of NA or CA.
In some cases, drug users who attend AA found these meetings more welcoming and accommodating.
Although some individuals have more AA sessions under their belt, a study has shown that it does not affect the person’s determination. They continued to attend the 12-step program – and participate in the follow-up – despite the mismatch.
Researchers attribute this success to the fact that alcoholism shares the same tenets of substance abuse – impaired control, cravings, and compulsive/continuous use. Because of this common ground, drug addicts can positively utilize the teachings that AA has to offer.
Going to NA or CA
While AA imparts techniques that are helpful for recovery, its primary focus is alcoholism and not drug abuse. As such, it’s better to attend NA if you are addicted to marijuana, opiates, and stimulants. If you have alcohol dependence, NA can help you with this as well.
NA’s vision is to have every addict in the world experience a message that suits his/her language and culture – so that he/she can find an opportunity for a new way of life.
An NA meeting, which often occurs in churches and treatment centers, does not focus on the drug type or amount – but on addiction and recovery. Meetings are not therapy sessions you can get from professionals, rather, they are a means of sharing each person’s experience with drug abuse. NA values anonymity, and while it doesn’t come with fees, voluntary contributions are welcome.
CA, like AA, is a fellowship of people who wish to promote recovery through the sharing of experiences. And while it’s tailor-made for cocaine users, those who use alcohol – and other drugs – are more than welcome to participate. Though CA is not readily present in most countries, online meetings are available for people who wish to join.
Experts believe that drug addicts who undergo NA or CA are more likely to benefit through continuous participation in the program. At the same time, it can provide better facilitation to services that are required by drug users.
Going Beyond the 12-Step Program
While AA, NA, and CA can help with recovery, these are best done in conjunction with professional treatments such as:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is an intervention that suits various addictions – whether they’re geared towards drugs or alcohol. This helps you identify your unhealthy behavioral patterns so that you know your triggers – as well as the coping skills that may help you out.
2. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
This treatment helps you recognize your negative thoughts – and how you can fight the feeling of self-defeat. With this, you will realize that rational thinking lies within yourself – and not the stressors around you.
3. Contingency Management
Used for narcotic and alcohol addiction, contingency management reinforces positive behavior (such as sobriety) with the help of rewards. This is often prescribed to people who are at risk of relapsing.
4. Medication Treatment
Relapse is most likely in drug or alcohol addicts because of certain cravings. But with the help of medications, cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be minimized. More importantly, medications may help improve mood and decrease addictive behaviors as well.
Drug addicts, as with other alcoholics, are free to attend AA sessions since they have more meetings that are widely available even in remote areas. Although it’s better to attend NA or CA (depending on the person’s addiction), AA proves to be a good alternative. After all, 12-step programs, regardless of nature, help pave the way for better outcomes – and immediate recovery.