12 Step Program for Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.

12 Step Program for Addiction Treatment

A 12 Step program for addiction treatment is a support group for those who suffer from addiction to alcohol or drugs. It is based around group meetings run by the members and is free to attend. Their only requirement is a desire for sobriety. The meetings are often used as part of rehabilitation in most treatment centers to help those in recovery. In some cases, attendance may be court-ordered.

Some people claim it is not a proven method of therapy. Others say the program is effective because it has lasted for over eight decades. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a disease of the brain. It also recognizes the 12 Step program as an important aspect of addiction recovery.

What is a 12 Step Program for Alcohol or Drug Addiction?

The Twelve Step program is a set of steps used to help a person in recovery from substance abuse. To use the 12 Steps, members attend meetings that act as a support group. The meetings help the addict work through each of the steps. This is done through peer support, mentoring, and personal accountability.

The 12 Step program may be used as a support therapy for alcohol or drug addiction. Many meetings are held at public locations, such as churches or community centers, but some addiction treatment facilities offer them.

Some people attend more than one type of meeting due to co-occurring addictions. Twelve step programs began as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but today one can find variations of the 12 Step programs.

12 Step Program Types

  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
  • Gambling Anonymous (GA)
  • Nicotine Anonymous (NicA)
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)
  • Alateen and Al-Anon (teens or families of alcoholics)

During the meetings, members take turns sharing stories of addiction problems and recovery experiences. These often help people with substance abuse problems find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Through sharing, men and women learn strategies for successful recovery. They may learn how to communicate with family and friends about their addictions. Some may share advice on living sober as they continue recovery.

A quality treatment program for addiction uses physical detox, specialized therapies, and support groups like a twelve-step program. According to ASAM, support groups work best when used with professional services. These include individual counseling, medical treatment, and specialized therapy methods.

The 12 Steps were originally created for Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. They are still used today. Some words are slightly altered for different addictions and 12 Step programs.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
  9. Made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message

Along with the steps, the program uses a set of guidelines, or traditions, to ensure success and remain accessible. The idea behind the traditions is to allow the program and its members to remain independent.

12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. Our common welfare should come first
  2. There is one ultimate authority, which is a loving God
  3. The desire to stop drinking is the only membership requirement
  4. Each Alcoholics Anonymous group is autonomous, except in matters affecting all groups
  5. Each group’s primary purpose is to carry the message to those still struggling with alcohol
  6. Alcoholics Anonymous does not give money, endorsement, or prestige to organizations outside the group’s mission
  7. Each group must self-support and decline outside contributions
  8. The core of the group meetings is nonprofessional, peer support
  9. There is no central organizing body
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous remains apolitical, with no opinion on outside issues
  11. Personal anonymity of members is deeply important
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the traditions, placing principles above personalities

What are 12 step treatment programs for opioid addiction?

The 12 Step programs have been adapted to include other addictions. These are used for other substance abuse problems, such as opioid addiction. The 12 Step program for opioid addiction is called Narcotics Anonymous.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 130 people in the United States die from opioid overdose every day. In response, intensive and inclusive treatments for those in need have been created. An effective treatment program for drug addiction often uses 12 Step meetings or 12 Step facilitation therapy as part of rehab. These programs help a patient change their behavior and avoid using drugs.

Some critics feel using 12 Step meetings may be a conflict of interest with some professional treatment programs. This is because some members think all members should abstain from any substances and medications while in recovery.

But evidence shows that Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) works best for the early stages of opioid addiction treatment. Many Narcotics Anonymous meetings allow anyone to attend. However, some groups may limit participation by those using medical treatment.

The History Behind the 12-Step Program

In the mid-1930s, a man named William Wilson struggled with alcoholism. His friend introduced him to the Oxford Group, a Christian fellowship group that promoted spiritual values. Together they met, prayed, discussed their problems and abstained from alcohol.

Eventually Bill W., as he later became known, reached out to others and meetings began. The success of the meetings prompted him to put his work in writing. He eventually wrote the Big Book, which includes stories of his experiences with alcoholism. He soon added the 12 Steps and Traditions along with other helpful information shortly after.

The 12 Step program has evolved since then. It was originally written for alcoholics who needed help, but could not attend a meeting. In time, the Big Book became the guide for many of the 12 Step programs used today.

Some changes have been made since then. For example, the term Higher Power is used instead of God. This is a result of the many millions of people who utilize the 12 Steps, but have different spiritual views.

Does the 12-Step Program Work?

“It works if you work it,” is a common theme for meetings and members. Many people who use it claim that it has a high success rate. But others claim there is no evidence it works. According to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, cognitive restructuring is an effective method for treatment. This does occur when a 12 Step program is used in addiction recovery.

While a 12 Step program has helped many people achieve sobriety, it has also had its fair share of criticism.

Pros and Cons of 12 Step Programs


  • Sense of community
  • Acceptance of an addiction
  • Free and accessible for most people
  • Helps prevent relapse
  • Has withstood the test of time
  • Some studies prove effectiveness when used with other addiction treatments


  • Religious undertones
  • Is not evidence-based
  • Some members are court ordered
  • Anonymity may tempt criminals or drug dealers to attend
  • Some members discourage the use of MAT

Specialized Addiction Treatment Program for Opioids

Opioid addiction is a complex disease. Opioids create a dependency that makes treatment risky. Many people who have opioid addiction can develop mental health problems while others may experience co-addictions. Both are reasons to use professional treatment services.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, treatment program options for opiate addiction are offered by using residential programs that begin with detox.

Opiate addictions often require medications to help the patient slowly withdraw from opiates. Some may be used to help lessen or manage withdrawal symptoms. Medically assisted treatment can help the patient with a safe detox. This is often done through an inpatient facility that provides around-the-clock care.

Once physical detox is complete, it is time for rehab. Rehab uses methods of therapy that may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Workshops and Classes
  • Recreational Therapies

Contact us today to get started on your road to recovery.

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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