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Why a 12 Step Program is NOT enough for Addiction

It is estimated that 23 million people in the United States struggle with addiction to some type of substance. Alcohol Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are considered the standard treatment for a recovering addict. These programs are based on the 12 steps, and were introduced in 1938. However, experts now know that a 12 step program is not enough to treat addiction, mainly because they do not include both psychological and medical components.

The Science behind Addiction

Science now offers us many insights into the concept of addiction. Researchers now know it has a genetic component. In addition, environmental Detox Center San Diegofactors lead to addiction, such as influences and triggers. The brain activity changes when someone uses a substance. Drugs contain chemicals that excite the brain’s communication system and disrupt nerve cell signals. This involves overstimulating the reward circuit in the brain and imitating natural chemical messengers.

Heroin, opiates, and marijuana are chemically similar to neurotransmitters, and they fool the brain’s receptors. Cocaine and methamphetamine cause nerve cells to release dopamine in large amounts, and they prevent normal recycling of brain chemicals. The result is enhanced stimulation and a feeling of pleasure. An addict who abuses drugs can adapt to surges of dopamine, which in turn, reduces the person’s ability to enjoy anything in life that was previously pleasurable.

Medical and Psychological Treatment

With a non-12 step program, medical and psychological treatment is incorporated into the recovery process. Physicians, registered nurses, psychologists, and technicians all work together to help the client. In addition, medications are used to change brain chemistry, curb the cravings for drugs and/or alcohol, and eliminate painful withdrawal symptoms.

Alternatives to 12 Step Programs

  • Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) – This model has three goals: to teach you skill to care for the self, to teach you skills to help your partner of family member change, and to reduce the use of a substance.


  • SMART Recovery – This program provides free mutual self-help meetings to help individuals abstain from addictive behaviors. SMART recovery offers techniques for each person to build and maintain motivation, cope with urges, live a balanced life, and manage thoughts and behaviors.


  • Assisted Recovery – This involves the use of medications to stop the obsession and craving of drugs. Treatment and therapy involves individual counseling and group meetings. This helps clients learn how to deal with the underlying addiction issues.


Differences between Alternative Treatment and the 12 Step Approach

The differences usually fall into four categories. These are:Alcohol Recovery San Diego


  • Emphasis on internal control – A 12 step program emphasizes a person’s powerless over alcohol and other substances. Other rehab models reject this view and force the individual to have power in him- or herself to overcome the addiction.


  • Secularity – The 12 steps make references to God and prayer. Alternative forms of therapy use a secular approach, making the members feel more open and comfortable if they are agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, or Wiccan.


  • Evolving approaches – SMART recovery and other options are developed using evidence-based research. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to change the person’s mindset regarding addiction.


  • Shedding life-long labels – With a 12 step program, the battle against addiction is considered lifelong, requiring constant vigilance and attendance to meetings. Alternative treatment views addiction as a short-term problem that can be overcome.

The top substance abuse rehab center in Southern California is Pacific Bay Recovery in San Diego. Call us today at (858) 263-9700 for more information and visit us at!

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