Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the largest and most commonly known self-help group in the world. Since the creation of AA in 1935, there have been many programs modeled after it, which are also based on the 12-Step Program. Some of these include Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Chemically Dependent Anonymous, as well as programs for specific drugs, such as Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Crystal Meth Anonymous (NIDA, 2012). Attendance and participation for self-help groups are open for anyone to attend and free of cost for all members, with meetings typically held in locations such as churches and public buildings. “Metropolitan areas usually have specialized groups, based on such member characteristics as gender, length of time in recovery, age, sexual orientation, profession, ethnicity, and language spoken” (CSTAT, 2008). Vast majorities of drug addiction treatment programs encourage the participation of self-help group therapy during and after formal treatment because the patients benefit from the social reinforcement that comes from peer discussion, while also helping to promote, achieve, and maintain drug-free and healthy lifestyles.
The 12-Step Program is a uniquely, well-rounded phase of treatment that includes maintaining a close relationship with a sponsor who is experienced with self-discipline and long-term abstinence. The meetings also incorporate skills such as helping others, taking responsibility for recovery, sharing personal experiences, and accepting the existence of a higher power. “Research has shown that when group therapy either is offered in conjunction with individualized drug counseling or is formatted to reflect the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy or contingency management, positive outcomes are achieved” (NIDA, 2012). The original 12 Step Guide was inspired and created in 1935 by pioneer AA members. A couple years later, the two founders of AA published a book based on their experiences, including both the failures and the successes. The book describes the original AA philosophy and methods, along with establishing the Twelve Steps. Although it has been revised throughout the years, and continues to be updated, the Twelve Steps have remained intact as it carries on its stories of success from one group to the other. Nearly four decades of scientific research and clinical practice has taught us about many diverse and effective approaches to the treatment of drug addiction, resulting in the creation of several manuals and guides throughout the years.
The etiology of substance use disorders can be explained through a variety of social dynamics. Genetic factors have been studied most frequently with alcohol and tobacco use disorders. “Specific genes have been identified, but the interaction of these genes with the environment is key for understanding genetic contributions” (Kring, 2014). More often than not, drugs are used as an escape – an escape from reality – and this temporary escape is used to avoid the negative feelings and bad moods which are known to be related to withdrawal symptoms. In addition, this also helps in explaining the frequency and pattern of relapse. “Many substances are used to alter mood (e.g., to reduce tension of increase positive affect), and people with certain personality traits, such as those high in negative affect or low in constraint, are especially likely to use drugs” (Kring, 2014). Neurobiological factors, including the brain’s reward pathways, seem to have an influence on the use of some substances in certain individuals. “Nearly all drugs, including alcohol, stimulate the dopamine system in the brain, which produces rewarding or pleasurable feelings. Incentive-sensitization theory explains that the dopamine system becomes sensitive to the drug, as well as the cues associated with the drug (needles, rolling papers, etc.). Sensitivity to these cues induces and strengthens wanting and craving for the drug” (Kring, 2014). Cognitive and...
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