Substance use is something that has gripped society due to rising rates of unemployment, domestic violence, poverty, and mental health disorders. While it is unfortunate for an individual to become addicted to either alcohol or drugs, there are thankfully extremely helpful and effective addiction recovery techniques such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that can help people get back on their feet and back to contributors to society.
What are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA)?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international organization that is dedicated to helping individuals that battle alcohol addiction and associated disorders. It is commonly known for its 12-step program to help individuals with their addiction recovery and has been hailed as an extremely effective program in treating alcoholism. Combined with the prescribed 12 steps, individuals find huge comfort in being a part of a community of people who struggle with the same problem.
Narcotics Anonymous functions in a similar manner but focuses more on the abuse and addition of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and opioids. NA also uses the 12-step program to assist people with their drug rehabilitation and becoming functioning members of society.
The efficacy of the AA and NA programs
Mounting evidence has proven that these programs are key causal agents in helping individuals abstain from drugs and alcohol. In a study conducted by Alexandre Laudet, it was concluded that attending 12-Step meetings, considering one's self a member of a 12-Step fellowship, and working the steps as a foundation would lead to sustained abstinence over one year. Continuous 12-Step attendance (weekly or more frequent) over three years predicted sustained abstinence over three years. Across recovery stages, individuals were 4.1 - 8.6 times more likely to achieve sustained abstinence by continuous 12-Step meeting attendance and involvement. Laudet concluded that the evidence of these programs’ efficacy is strong and compelling, detailing that there is a strong relationship between higher rates of abstinence and high meeting attendance.
Additionally, the study found that individuals undergoing AA and NA programs found the 12-step process highly effective and important, rating it 8.7 on a 10-point scale. Further, individuals attending AA and NA meetings find that these programs help them on their journey to promote and maintain sobriety and recovery and to find a supportive community where friendships may be formed. The AA and NA programs are fantastic platforms for struggling individuals to form long-lasting relationships that will give them the support and accountability that they need, as well as a feeling that they are not alone in their journey to recovery.
Even one or two meetings per week have been associated with sharp increases in abstinence or the substance in question. It’s fair to conclude that general group-therapeutic processes may be at work in 12-Step meetings and that these have beneficial outcomes for participants
Overall helpfulness of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs
Findings from a study conducted by Elizabeth A.R. Robinson supported the statement that AA and NA programs are helpful for those looking to embark on a journey of abstinence and sobriety in order to improve their lives and wellbeing. Of 286 participants in the study, 42.3% found the AA program to be helpful and had a higher frequency of abstinence days than those who had mixed feelings or nothing to say about the program. They also had fewer heavy drinking days and a longer period of time since their last drink.
The specific qualities of the AA and NA programs that individuals found useful were narrowed down to:
- Identifying with other participants with similar substance abuse disorders
- Sharing, talking, and telling stories
- Having a sponsor
- The 12 steps
Substance use disorder recovery is a difficult road but one that is clearly made less tumultuous with the existence of these programs. There’s a reason mutual aid recovery groups have expanded into the hundreds since the 1750s, with over two million AA members to date. The 12 traditions have become known as the AA and NA’s organizational framework that has guided addicted individuals to a place of stability and sobriety. The evidence in support of these programs is hard to argue with. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups in regions such as California are rising in popularity with many more groups being created, making recovery and unity in working towards recovery more accessible than ever.