When someone accepts that her substance use has become a problem, often her first thought is to attend a 12-Step program like AA or NA. These programs have been around for decades and helped millions of people get sober. Twelve-step programs certainly have some advantages. A big one is that they’re free and open to everyone. You can also attend meetings without disrupting your life too much. 12-Step meetings are also widely available. There are more than 100,000 AA meetings and more than 67,000 NA meetings worldwide. That makes them an accessible option, even for people in relatively remote areas. For people living in mid-sized cities, there’s probably a meeting within walking distance. All of these features mean 12-Step meetings will continue to be a popular way to treat addiction but is a 12-Step meeting really all you need?
Everyone recovering from a substance use disorder is different and will have different needs in treatment and recovery. For some people, a 12-Step meeting will be perfect. It gives them a chance to connect with others in recovery and work a systematic program of sobriety and introspection. Sometimes the social support is the most significant factor.
Others will need more. Studies show that about half of adults and more than 60 percent of adolescents with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health issue. [https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness] Common issues include major depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADHD, personality disorders, and psychotic disorders. Substance use disorders often begin as a way of self-medicating the symptoms of a mental health issue. However, substance use can make the symptoms worse, leading to a downward spiral. Treating addiction successfully also requires treating the co-occurring mental health issue.
Unfortunately, 12-Step programs are not designed to address mental health issues. They are run by members with no special training in addiction or mental health. As a result, people with co-occurring conditions may get some benefits from attending 12-Step meetings, but they will be fighting an uphill battle until they get proper treatment for their mental health issue.
Other people may need more involved treatment. 12-Step meetings are strictly voluntary and most people don’t stick with the program very long. They may go to a meeting with good intentions but find their whole life is built around substance use. Entering a treatment program is not only a more intensive form of treatment that can also address co-occurring mental health issues, but it breaks you out of a lifestyle built around substance use, as well. You don’t see the same people and go to the same bars, and so on. You get time away to break old habits and create healthier ones in a supportive environment.
At Fort, we offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for men and women to find recovery from the multifaceted disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call us today at 817-381-9741 or contact us through our admissions page.