Pros and Cons of 12-Step Drug Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a disease characterized by chronic relapse. Studies estimate that nearly 3 million people receive the help of drug addiction treatment each year. Many choose 12-step addiction treatment as their guiding path to recovery—but why?

12-Step drug addiction treatment models have a number of pros and cons. Success rates vary depending largely on the user, his or her commitment, and a variety of other factors. Here’s a look at what to expect:

What is 12 Step Addiction Treatment?

This method of treatment was popularized in 1939 when the first Alcoholics Anonymous book was published. The book was titled Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism.  This book essentially paved the way for the millions of people who now seek the help of 12-step treatment through support groups and meetings found worldwide.

12-Step addiction treatment programs can help those who show the following signs of addiction:

  • Use of a controlled substance in a frequent or consistent manner that inhibits natural habits or abilities to participate in regular routines.
  • Having a desire to quit but an inability to consciously remain sober without help.
  • Spending excessive amounts of time finding, using, and recovering from the use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Suffering from disruptions in quality or ability to perform at work, home or school.
  • Suffering from adverse effects in personal relationships, academic achievements, or professional achievements as a result of substance abuse.
  • Reducing activities or limiting involvement in activities that are otherwise enjoyable in order to use drugs or alcohol.
  • Using substances during times that such use creates hazard or other serious danger.
  • Suffering from adverse health problems, disease, or illness as a result of substance use.
  • Developing a tolerance to substances of abuse and increasing the level of misuse to accommodate changing tolerance levels.
  • Feeling sick or otherwise uncomfortable when the substance is not available – withdrawal.

What are the 12 Steps?

12-Step Drug Addiction Treatment

Giving control over to your higher power is a big part of the 12 step recovery process.

Depending on what type of 12-step treatment program you attend (whether it’s a program centered around the treatment of alcohol addiction or one centered around the treatment of narcotics addiction or one centered around the treatment of cocaine addiction) you will have some variation of the following 12-steps as part of the healing process:

  1. Admit that you are powerless in the face of your dependency and you can no longer manager your life because of it.
  2. Accept that a higher power can provide you with the sanity and balance you’ve lost.
  3. Decide to give your life and willpower up to that higher power.
  4. Take note of your moral obligations without bias.
  5. Admit to yourself, and to others, including your higher power, the wrongs you have committed.
  6. Prepare for your higher power to take away your character flaws.
  7. Ask your higher power to relieve you from your sins.
  8. Make a list of the people that you’ve wronged and seek forgiveness.
  9. Make amends with the people you’ve wronged unless it would otherwise harm you to do so.
  10. Act vigilantly regarding your shortcomings and be prepared to take responsibility for your wrongdoings as they occur.
  11. Pray to your higher power and ask that the higher power fulfill you with good intentions.
  12. Achieve spiritual enlightenment as you walk through life knowing the 12 steps and share this message with others.

12-Step Addiction Treatment Pros

Obviously, utilizing any type of action plan in recovery is beneficial. For some, having a distinct and defined set of “steps” that can be taken to achieve healing is helpful.

12 Step addiction recovery programs are found worldwide. You can attend a meeting almost anywhere in the world, so if you travel a lot, this method of treatment and support may be ideal for you.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that in order for treatment to be effective it must be readily available when the user seeks such help. 12-step programs are always available. Many offer online support, and treatment centers around the world open their doors to those looking for supportive care that uses this 12-step approach.

Joining a meeting is free. While small donations are accepted, you do not have to donate if you cannot afford to. This makes 12-step approaches to treatment an ideal choice for those who are on a tight budget.

Preparing for Your First 12 Step Meeting

12-Step Addiction Treatment Cons

Like anything in life, here are also negative elements associated with 12-step programs. Studies show that these programs may not be highly effective for those with undiagnosed or untreated mental health problems. If you suffer from dual diagnosis, or if you have a mental health condition, it’s important to consider seeking help for BOTH conditions—the addiction and the mental illness.

This doesn’t mean that a 12-step addiction treatment program won’t work for you, but that you should be prepared to seek treatment for both conditions in order to guarantee your best chance for recovery.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love needs help, call our helpline toll-free at 800-781-0748 (Who Answers?) to speak with a recovery advisor. Our helpline is ready to answer the questions that you may have about treatment and healing. Don’t let addiction take another day of your life—get the help you need today and start a new, sober life tomorrow.

It only takes one call, it’s free and easy— 800-781-0748 (Who Answers?) .

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Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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