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How can a 12-step peer support group help me recover from my addiction?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
When people first realize that they want support in the recovery process from addiction, they often turn to peer support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). By some estimates, as many as one in 10 Americans, including two-thirds of those ever treated for alcohol addiction, has attended at least one AA meeting.

Programs like AA, including Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and similar so-called 12-step programs, can be very effective fellowships. But people seeking help should consider "shopping around" for the group that suits them best. As with most things that involve a human connection, peer support programs work when the group and the individual are compatible. Luckily, most support group systems have multiple groups and locations to choose from.

Also, you can use self-help 12-step fellowships in combination with psychotherapy. At one time, the relationship between AA and mental health professionals was somewhat tense and distant. The two groups had different opinions about the best way to treat addiction. But today cooperation is more common than conflict.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.