Why 12-Step Programs Matter

Why 12-Step Programs Matter

In a study aimed at defining recovery, The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in 2007 characterized it as a voluntary lifestyle maintained through sobriety, personal health and citizenship. A primary principle in the definition is that sobriety alone is not recovery. With time, neurological functions impaired by the addiction will return to healthier states, but recovering addicts must also elevate their quality of life by improving their mental health, social relationships, daily activities, regard for others and support networks. Professional treatment empowers people with the tools to get better, but it is an ongoing process, and most lasting recoveries benefit from peer support groups bound together by 12-Step programs or other defined courses of action.

What Are 12-Step Programs

While the personalities in support groups make each one different, the program itself is a set of guiding principles that helps people recover from substance addiction. The first 12-Step program, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), started in Ohio in the 1930s, and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) adopted its steps in the 1950s. There are several key principles in the steps, including the following:

  • Admit that the addiction is beyond your personal control
  • Examine past mistakes with the help of an experienced member
  • Make amends for these mistakes if doing so causes no further harm
  • Regularly reassess your lifestyle and admit shortcomings that may occur
  • Embrace the belief that a higher power can give you strength
  • Engage a new code of positive behavior by which to live

Most 12-Step programs include some or all of the steps from the AA tradition, and when paired with professional treatment and behavioral therapies, they can be a tremendous recovery aid. Furthermore, people typically pursue the 12 steps in the context of a local recovery group, which empowers them with social support and guidance.

Several clinical studies highlight the benefits of social support and 12-Step programs, including the following:

  • The American Journal of Public Health published a study in 2011 in which relapse rates were 10 times higher for people who ignored aftercare support
  • The Occupational Therapy International journal stated in 2008 that peer-group communities significantly reduced relapse risk
  • An examination of 2,337 cases by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in 1999 found higher one-year sobriety rates for people in support programs
  • A study of long-term recovery in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2006 found that participation also produced better 16-year outcomes
  • The Addiction journal in 2002 explained that support groups and defined courses of action are important due to the chronic nature of addiction

Recovery requires a self-reinvention that improves the person’s psychological, social and personal health, and the path to such improvements is different for each individual. As with any new path, there may be moments when a person feels lost or at a crossroad, and 12-Step programs help illuminate the path and provide support during difficult terrain.

Addiction Recovery and Support

The addiction struggle in modern times involves prescription medication as often as it does illicit drugs. For example, the methylphenidate formulation Ritalin has the same restrictive drug class as cocaine and crystal meth due to its propensity for abuse, and many people become addicts without any initial intent to chase a drug high. Whatever the situation might be, rehabilitation centers can help patients start their recoveries, and 12-Step programs can provide valuable aftercare support.

If you have questions about treatment, 12-Step programs or other recovery support options, our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to help. If you need professional services, we can even check health insurance policies for benefits. Please call our toll-free helpline now.