For years 12-step programs have been heralded as one of the best ways to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol or drugs. Originally created as a spiritual awareness program, the program turns off some people who are uncomfortable turning their lives over to a “higher power” in order to stop abusing a substance. The evidence shows, though, that those who do take the 12-step path have had some success, but not necessarily as much success as those who have taken other paths to rehabilitation.
Per their own surveying, one of the most recognized 12-step programs in the country, AA, has determined the following the success rates amongst those in the program:
- 36-percent maintain sobriety for more than 10 years
- 14-percent of those in the program have been sober 5 to 10 years
- 24-percent have been sober 1 to 5 years
- 26-percent have been sober less than a year
Prior to joining Alcoholics Anonymous, 64-percent of those in the program had tried other types of treatment and 84-percent of those surveyed stated that AA played a significant role in their recovery from addiction.
Long-term treatment has proven the most effective means of stemming drug or alcohol abuse across all groups. Participation in a rehabilitation program for a minimum of three months has shown to be most effective in producing long-term results and abstinence, while the longer the rehabilitation period, the more effective the treatment.
Residential treatment has also been proven to increase the success rates of rehabilitation, and long-term programs at a residential facility have produced some of the highest success rates in rehabilitation. Women treated at residential facilities for six months or more, for instance, have shown abstinence rates from drugs and alcohol around 70-percent upon completion of the program.
Working in Conjunction
Alcohol and drug addiction go beyond the physical dependence. When alcohol consumption or drug use is used as a coping mechanism, that method of coping becomes a habit, that can be hard for many people to break. That’s what makes long-term treatment so effective. With long-term care, people in the program have the time and the resources they need to form new habits for dealing with stress and disappointments.
Twelve-step programs are long-term programs, designed so that anyone in the program can stay in the program as long as necessary. Some people who participate in 12-step programs may participate for only a year and be able to abstain after their time in the program. Others may go to meetings for five or 10 years to maintain their sobriety. Twelve-step programs are tailored in that individuals can participate in the way that is most effective for them.
There is no reason that traditional rehabilitation in a rehab facility and participation in a 12-step program cannot be used together to create a system of support for a substance abuser who is looking for help. An abuser with a long-term addiction may require detoxification in order to get started on their path to recovery, but may not have the means or the desire to stay in in-patient treatment for months. By combining a short-term rehabilitation stay with the convenience of a 12-step recovery program, someone who needs help overcoming an addiction can gather help from all available resources to create a program that is both long-term and effective.
So is it effective?
Asking if 12-step programs are truly effective is like asking if traditional drug or alcohol rehabilitation is truly effective. The answer is yes and no. For many people, rehabilitation proves effective, while some people have difficulty with recovery no matter which program they attempt to complete. Major factors in the success of a program is whether an abuser chooses to seek help on their own, how much he or she wants to overcome the addiction, and how much effort he or she puts into the completion of the program.
If the statistics are correct, more than one-third of those people who enter AA though successfully maintain sobriety after ten years, and the advantage of a 12-step program is that its tenets are always available and meetings occur regularly. This provides ex-users with a constant system of support, no matter how long it takes them to reach full recovery.