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Aftercare Support Groups

Addiction support groups are a critical component of many addiction recovery paths. The most well-known support groups are 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but there are several other types of support groups that may be incorporated into an individual’s aftercare plan to support them through addiction recovery. 12-step and similar recovery programs can extend the progress made during formal treatment efforts; the continued social support of peers who are also in recovery can be a powerful tool to promote long-term sobriety.1

Substance Addiction Help

Addiction is a complex, chronic and often progressive mental health issue; however, it is treatable. The primary goals of addiction treatment are to help people stop using drugs and  then maintain their sobriety in the long-term so that they may live healthier, happier lives. Drug addiction treatment typically involves behavioral therapy and, in some cases, medication. Beyond the initial period of rehabilitation, long-term follow up and continued recovery efforts are important elements of treatment, as the ongoing support helps prevent relapse.2

Self-help groups, including 12-step groups, encourage taking responsibility for one’s actions, but stress that excessive self-reliance may be in some cases be counterproductive to recovery. Rather, support groups promote behaviors such as asking other people for help in recovery. People who have lived the experience of alcohol or substance abuse can share their stories of hope and recovery with others; this shared wisdom and reliance on others for guidance becomes a key component of sustained recovery for many.3

However, support groups don’t replace rehab; they are designed to complement formal treatment efforts and better help people maintain recovery after substance abuse rehabilitation. If you are seeking drug addiction help, American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers comprehensive addiction treatment services. AAC is a leading substance abuse treatment provider with locations throughout the United States. At AAC, we focus on treating addiction, as well as the underlying causes of your addiction. Call 888-966-8152 today to learn more about our treatment programs

Many people who start substance rehabilitation with inpatient treatment will continue their recovery efforts with the help of an outpatient program. Outpatient program intensity levels and time requirements may vary, but many can expect to continue to receive treatment for at least a few hours per day, several days per week. The difference with treatment in an outpatient setting is that you can return home at night and on weekends outside of treatment hours. As part of many treatment programs, whether inpatient or outpatient, people will be encouraged to engage with 12-step groups and other forms of mutual support—a practice that can continue through aftercare. Ongoing participation in a support group can be a critical part of your long-term recovery.

AAC offers alumni groups, which are available to anyone who graduates from an AAC program. The AAC Alumni network of program graduates nationwide can help support you in your ongoing recovery and aftercare.

Numerous 12-step groups host meetings in almost all communities throughout the United States and around the world; among them is AAC’s free virtual support group.

Specifics and Benefits of a 12-Step Program

A 12-step group is a mutual-help group founded on the philosophy of the 12 steps, which outline a sequential program of recovery that participants work through. It’s important to note 12-step programs are non-professional, self-supporting fellowships. They are peer-led by others in recovery, rather than by treatment professionals.

The 12 Steps begin with an admission of powerlessness over one’s addiction and a belief in a “Power greater than ourselves.” Other steps include taking a searching, fearless moral inventory and making amends, if possible, for past wrongs.

The programs are free, widely available, and participation is confidential. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about a drinking or drug problem. Members are encouraged to frequently attend meetings and, eventually,  connect with another member in recovery, known as a sponsor, who has been in the program for some time and is willing to mentor newcomers. Participation with 12-step programs has been associated with reduced substance abuse and overall better social outcomes.4

Alcoholism Help & Support

Alcoholism, a condition medically diagnosed as an alcohol use disorder, is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder characterized by the compulsive use of alcohol despite the potential for significantly negative drinking-related consequences. In 2018, an estimated 15 million Americans had an alcohol use disorder.5

People who struggle with alcoholism may experience many negative consequences, including medical, financial, emotional, and social issues.

If you think you need professional help, your first call should be to find a treatment program for drug or alcohol abuse. Addiction treatment can help you on your road to recovery by exploring the underlying reason for your problematic substance use and providing you with the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. 12-step programs and support groups are an important component of ongoing support and recovery, especially after formal treatment ends.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Attending group therapy is a key part of your recovery and aftercare. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free, peer-led 12-step group comprised of people who have had drinking problems but desire to stop using alcohol.6 AA estimates that around 1.5 million people are active in their groups across the United States.7 If you are interested in joining, AA has a list of meetings available worldwide.

Drug Addiction Support Groups

Drug addiction can involve many different drugs, with people having an addiction to one or more drugs. Addiction may be characterized by compulsive drug use despite experiencing negative outcomes and, commonly, repeated failed attempts or an inability to stop using. Drug addiction may also include cravings or a strong desire to continue using, as well as a failure to fulfill duties in your personal or professional life. Similar to family conflict due to alcohol use, families dealing with a loved one’s drug use can also experience greater conflict.8

Several drug addiction support groups adhere to a 12-step model. In addition, support groups for families of addicts can be helpful to those dealing with alcoholism or drug addiction in a loved one.

For example, Al-Anon is a 12-step program that provides a mutually supportive environment for family members dealing with a loved one’s substance use.9 Similarly, Alateen is designed to help teens cope with a parent or other family member who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol.11

Narcotics Anonymous

Similar to AA, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is also a 12-step group that offers free ongoing peer-led meetings to those with drug addictions seeking to stop using. NA states that 70,000 meetings are held each week throughout 144 countries.10 The NA meeting locator can direct you to a meeting in your area.

CA and MA

Cocaine Anonymous (CA) is a 12-step group that focuses on people with cocaine addiction, although they also have members who wish to stop drinking and using other drugs as well.12 CA has a list of meetings by location that will link you to local chapters for more information.

Marijuana Anonymous (MA) is another 12-step group founded to address the needs of people who abuse marijuana.13 MA states that the only requirement to join is a desire to stop using marijuana. You can search their website to find information about meetings in your area.

S.O.S

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is a mutual-help group model that is not 12-step based.14 SOS addresses numerous forms of addiction, including those involving not only alcohol and drugs, but other compulsive behaviors such as food addiction. As the name implies, SOS takes a secular approach to promoting sobriety. SOS emphasizes personal empowerment and forgoes the incorporation of spirituality or God in recovery, in contrast to the 12-step model. SOS hosts meetings across the country; find a meeting closest to you or, if there are no physical meetings nearby, inquire about online opportunities.

SMART Recovery

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) offers science-based, self-empowering support group meetings. SMART Recovery does not use labels such as addict or alcoholic. The focus is not on the past, but rather on the present and future, with a goal of healthy behavioral changes. SMART doesn’t endorse a spiritual model, nor does it believe addiction is a disease. However, SMART doesn’t exclude people who believe addiction is a disease or choose to attend NA or AA.15 If you are interested in SMART, you can find a meeting near you.

Support groups provide a critical component of recovery for people dealing with addiction. 12-step and other mutual support groups are just a few of the many treatment options available to address your addiction rehabilitation and aftercare needs.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches to drug addiction.
  3. Miller, M. (2015). The relevance of 12-step recovery in 21st century addiction medicine.
  4. Donovan, D. M., Ingalsbe, M. H., Benbow, J., & Daley, D. C. (2013). 12-step interventions and mutual support programs for substance use disorders: An overviewSocial Work in Public Health28(3-4), 313–332.
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol use disorder.
  6. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2020). What is AA?
  7. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2019). Estimates of AA groups and members as of January 1, 2019.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  9. Al-anon. (2020). Who are Al-anon members?
  10. Narcotics Anonymous. (2016). Information about NA.
  11. Al-anon. (2020). Alateen.
  12. Cocaine Anonymous. About CA.
  13. Marijuana Anonymous. (2020). Marijuana anonymous.
  14. An overview of SOS.
  15. SMART Recovery. (2020). About SMART recovery.
Last Updated on June 10, 2020
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Scot Thomas, MD
Industry Expert
Dr. Scot Thomas is Senior Medical Editor for American Addiction Centers. He received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
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