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Self-Help Groups for Drug Addiction

NA and Other Substance Abuse Support Groups

Choosing a Drug Treatment Program

If you’re trying to give up drugs, peer support groups can be an invaluable source of guidance, assistance, and encouragement. Groups are very helpful, not only in maintaining sobriety, but also as a safe place to get support and discuss challenges.

Connecting with others who know first-hand what you’re going through can help reduce feelings of isolation, fear, and hopelessness. Staying motivated and positive is much easier when you have others you can turn to and lean on to help you get through tough times.

Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is the most well-known and widely available self-help group for drug addicts in treatment and recovery. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, which is limited to alcohol problems, Narcotics Anonymous is open to substance abuse problems of all kinds.

NA uses fellowship and a set of guided principles—the 12 steps—to help members achieve and maintain sobriety. The twelve recovery steps include admitting powerlessness over the addiction and surrendering to a “higher power,” which you can interpret according to your own beliefs.

A key part of a 12-step program is choosing a sponsor. A sponsor is a former addict who has time and experience remaining sober and can provide support when you’re dealing with the urge to use.

NA members attend group meetings facilitated by other members—all recovering drug addicts. Meetings take place on a regular basis, at various times, and in many different locations around the world. Members are free to attend any of the many meetings held each week.

The 12 steps

The twelve-step process involves:

  • admitting that you are powerless to control your addiction or compulsion
  • recognizing a higher power “as you understand it” that can give strength
  • reviewing the mistakes you’ve made in the past, with the help of your sponsor
  • making amends for past mistakes and wrongs
  • learning how to live a new life, free from old unhealthy habits and ways of behaving
  • helping fellow drug addicts

Other self-help support groups for drug addiction

There are alternatives to Narcotics Anonymous for those who have other interests or special needs. These groups have different philosophies about drug addiction treatment and recovery, yet offer the same benefits of group support.

12-step groups for co-occurring substance abuse and mental health problems

Co-occurring disorders, also referred to as dual diagnosis, is a term used when you have both a mental health disorder—such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder—and a drug or alcohol problem.

Both the mental health issue and the addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. Whether your mental health issue or addiction came first, recovery depends on treating both problems.

The following 12-step group addresses both substance abuse problems and co-occurring mental health disorders:

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is an international organization that takes a science-based, self-empowerment approach to abstinence and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

  • A network of independent meetings with an alternative recovery method
  • Promotes abstinence and provides support from others struggling with the same issues
  • Encourages self-empowerment approaches to recovery for those who are uncomfortable with the spiritual content of AA
  • Takes the approach that sobriety is a separate issue from religion or spirituality
  • Credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his or her own sobriety, without reliance on any higher power

SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training)

SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a program that aims for abstinence from alcohol or drugs through self-empowerment and self-directed change.

  • Emphasizes self-empowerment, self-reliance, and self-directed change
  • Based on principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Teaches specific tools and techniques within a 4-point program:
    1. Enhancing and maintaining motivation to abstain
    2. Coping with urges
    3. Problem solving (managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors)
    4. Lifestyle balance (balancing momentary and enduring satisfactions)
  • Cognitive strategies (positive thinking)
  • Letting the body help (relaxation techniques, meditation, diet, and physical exercise)

Related links

12-step programs for drug abuse and addiction

Narcotics Anonymous
Cocaine Anonymous
Crystal Meth Anonymous
Marijuana Anonymous

Other self-help support groups for drug abuse and addiction

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
SMART Recovery

Support groups for addicts with mental health problems

Dual Recovery Anonymous

Melinda Smith, M.A., Joanna Saisan, MSW, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., contributed to this article. Last reviewed: April 2014.

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