People who have completed a drug abuse reduction program in Gainesville, VA can find support and guidance through peer-led recovery meetings. Mutual aid organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are free and led by members of “World Services”. These organizations provide literature, organize conventions, and oversee regional associations. At any meeting, members volunteer to fulfill their responsibilities.
In many cases, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer a subset of their meetings for specific groups of people, such as women, youth, and LGBTQ+ people. The limited number of studies on 12-step mutual help for drugs in addition to alcohol is promising, but more research is needed on people with other drug use disorders and whether NA can help people like AA. It has been proven that attending 12-step mutual help groups can benefit those who have never sought professional treatment. Non-12-step mutual aid organizations are often referred to as “secular mutual aid organizations”, given their intentional focus on the non-spiritual aspects of addiction recovery.
Virtually all research on mutual aid organizations has focused on 12-step mutual aid since these groups are widespread and easily accessible in communities. Research is needed to understand whether attending secular groups, such as SMART Recovery, also helps promote substance-related benefits. Initial studies conducted on SMART have been positive, and the first systematic review showed that attending more SMART Recovery meetings is related to better outcomes in relation to alcohol consumption. At the opposite end of the mutual aid spectrum of secular groups are religiously affiliated mutual aid organizations and other recovery support organizations.
Among the largest and most well-known is Celebrate Recovery, a Christian recovery support organization with 17,000 groups around the world that serves people not only with substance use but also with other behavioral problems. Unlike other recovery-related mutual aid organizations, Celebrate Recovery is divided into smaller, gender-specific groups that address a variety of topics. There are other faith-based recovery support organizations designed to help people with substance use problems, including those of people who identify as Jewish. The growth of groups affiliated with religion suggests that people may perceive it as useful; however, little is scientifically known about these types of mutual aid organizations.
Rigorous studies are needed to investigate how participation in religion-affiliated mutual aid organizations affects outcomes related to alcohol and other drug use over time. Compared to the horizontal governance structure of 12-stage mutual aid groups, SMART and Celebrate Recovery have a more vertical governance structure that monitors and standardizes the implementation of meetings. While this may provide better “quality control” for these more standardized groups, it can also limit capacity for growth. It is unclear whether this greater degree of quality control translates into better participation and recovery outcomes.
At the same time, virtually everyone shares the core principle of abstinence from alcohol and other drugs as a goal of recovery. They can also help people reduce or abstain from alcohol and other drugs in a similar way, although research is needed to test this assumption. Secular mutual aid organizations vary in the degree to which their recovery programs are outlined. This article provides a brief overview of 12-step programs, positive substance use, and the psychosocial outcomes associated with active 12-step participation.
Twelve-step facilitation therapy administered in a group format had substance use outcomes comparable to those of more established relapse prevention groups; in addition, treatment equalization effects were found in terms of gender, substance abuse patterns, and psychiatric severity.