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The Role of Informal 12 Step Programs in Opioid Addiction Recovery

Do 12 Step Programs Really Work?

There are many types of 12 Step Programs. Each patient may need different kinds and levels of support to maintain sobriety after formal treatment. However, some research into people who have achieved long-term abstinence from opioids found that NA can give patients access to services associated with sobriety success, such as:

  • Reliable, long-term social support
  • Reminders of negative consequences of addiction
  • A chance to reflect on positive things in your life

Engagement in these meetings is vital to predicting success. Studies show that the more someone becomes engaged in NA and the more they incorporate its principles into their daily lives, the more likely they are to achieve long-term sobriety. People who participate in NA are overall more likely to maintain abstinence than those who don’t.

12 Step Programs in Combination with Medication Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is quickly becoming the standard of care for opioid addiction. This type of treatment uses specific and safe doses of synthetic opioids to prevent symptoms of withdrawal without providing any sort of high to the patient. It works best in combination with counseling and continued psychotherapy.

But MAT and NA don’t have to remain mutually exclusive. Though MAT is formal treatment, it’s effectiveness may be supported by more informal 12 Step programs. A forthcoming study conducted at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation studied the effectiveness of a new program called Comprehensive Opioid Response with the Twelve Steps, or COR-12®. The program combines MAT and a 12 Step program within the formal setting of the treatment center.

Early results are promising. Of the 259 patients in the study, almost all completed residential treatment. This is a vital statistic, as not completing treatment is associated with an increased risk for overdose and death.

Continuous abstinence rates were also high. Ninety percent patients who were undergoing MAT treatment were still sober at one month, and 82 percent were still sober at six months. The combination of the two programs may offer the comprehensive support that patients need. However, it’s not clear if participating in informal 12 Step Programs, like NA, will offer the same benefits.

Understanding Informal 12 Step Programs

While some facilities offer 12 Step Programs, it’s important to remember that community-based groups like Narcotics Anonymous are not typically run by licensed addiction treatment professionals. People at NA meetings do, however, offer aid and vital support, but don’t necessarily have formal training in counseling, social work, or psychology. The distinction is important to keep in mind and if you have any concerns, should always be followed up with a licensed physician or psychologist.

Most NA programs follow an abstinence-based model which does not include medication-assisted treatment. However, it is important to follow the guidance of your medical professional, despite what other peers may suggest. MAT and NA do not need to remain mutually exclusive, particularly for patients who hope to one day stop MAT once they have achieved a stable recovery.

MAT and NA aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Though NA is not a replacement for formal addiction treatment, it can help patients find others who have achieved sobriety. It can be helpful to learn from their successes. NA groups are often diverse and include people of all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds. This means patients are more likely to find someone who they can relate to and seek out for inspiration. It also gives them an opportunity to break away from previous social groups who may have played a role in drug use and addiction.

The majority of NA members have achieved long-term sobriety. Ninety-one percent of NA members have at least one year of continuous abstinence and the average length of abstinence among NA members is more than 8 years. As NA continues to grow, these numbers are likely to go up. NA members who participate in sponsorship or service activities are also more likely to achieve long-term abstinence.

NA meetings occur all over the country, which may make it easier for patients to find the post-treatment support they need at no cost. Even if patients choose not to participate in NA, they should be encouraged to participate in some form of formal or informal group sessions to access the social support necessary for long-term sobriety. Combining these group sessions with MAT may offer added benefits and give the patient the tools they need to remain sober for years to come.

At Harmony Place, we provide comprehensive care and support for opioid addiction and substance abuse disorder. We encourage our patients to continue to participate in both formal and informal group events, as well as MAT, to help support their sobriety and allow them to lead the life they choose.

At Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, California, we provide a relaxing, comfortable environment for addiction treatment and recovery with many addiction treatment program options, including our Medication Assisted Treatment program. Contact us today at 1-(888)-789-4330 to learn more about our services and how you or your loved one can prepare for a successful rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction at our California treatment center.