12-Step Programs

12-step programs like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can serve as a useful and inexpensive aftercare resource that can help many patients to maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol after they complete drug abuse treatment. Participation in 12-step programs before and during drug abuse treatment also may benefit patients’ treatment engagement and recovery. Studies suggest there may be an “additive effect” on the recovery process from concurrent participation in drug abuse treatment and 12-step programs.

AA

What Is A.A.?

Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.

What Does A.A. Do?

  1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any source.
  2. The A.A. program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
  3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
    • Open speaker meetings – open to alcoholics and nonalcoholics. (Attendance at an open A.A. meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does, and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, A.A. members “tell their stories.” They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to A.A., and how their lives have changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • Open discussion meetings – one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads a discussion on A.A. recovery or any drinking-related problem anyone brings up. (Closed meetings are for A.A.s or anyone who may have a drinking problem.)
    • Closed discussion meetings – conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective A.A.s only.
    • Step meetings (usually closed) – discussion of one of the Twelve Steps.
    • A.A. members also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
    • A.A. members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about A.A. as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety Action Project) and D.W.I. (Driving While Intoxicated) programs. These meetings about A.A. are not regular A.A. group meetings.

What A.A. Does Not Do A.A. does not:

  1. Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
  2. Solicit members
  3. Engage in or sponsor research
  4. Keep attendance records or case histories
  5. Join “councils” of social agencies
  6. Follow up or try to control its members
  7. Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
  8. Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
  9. Offer religious services
  10. Engage in education about alcohol
  11. Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other welfare or social services
  12. Provide domestic or vocational counseling
  13. Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-A.A. sources
  14. Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc. e.

NA

Narcotics Anonymous sprang from the Alcoholics Anonymous Program of the late 1940s, with meetings first emerging in the Los Angeles area of California, USA, in the early Fifties. The NA program started as a small US movement that has grown into one of the world’s oldest and largest organizations of its type.

NA’s earliest self-titled pamphlet, known among members as “the White Booklet,” describes Narcotics Anonymous this way:
“NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We … meet regularly to help each other stay clean. … We are not interested in what or how much you used … but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help.” Membership is open to all drug addicts, regardless of the particular drug or combination of drugs used. When adapting AA’s First Step, the word “addiction” was substituted for “alcohol,” thus removing drug-specific language and reflecting the “disease concept” of addiction. There are no social, religious, economic, racial, ethnic, national, gender, or class-status membership restrictions. There are no dues or fees for membership; while most members regularly contribute small sums to help cover the expenses of meetings, such contributions are not mandatory.

Narcotics Anonymous provides a recovery process and support network inextricably linked together. One of the keys to NA’s success is the therapeutic value of addicts working with other addicts. Members share their successes and challenges in overcoming active addiction and living drug-free productive lives through the application of the principles contained within the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of NA. These principles are the core of the Narcotics Anonymous recovery program. Principles incorporated within the steps include:

  • admitting there is a problem;
  • seeking help;
  • engaging in a thorough self-examination;
  • confidential self-disclosure;
  • making amends for harm done;
  • and helping other drug addicts who want to recover.

Central to the Narcotics Anonymous program is its emphasis on practicing spiritual principles. Narcotics Anonymous itself is non-religious, and each member is encouraged to cultivate an individual understanding-religious or not-of this “spiritual awakening.”