Step-programs have made profound positive impacts on thousands of people’s lives. Many reading this blog are likely in a step-program and have benefited from the companionship and sense of community that comes along with programs such as AA or NA. Many of my patients recovering from opioid addiction go to meetings regularly, some attend group gatherings a couple of times per day. I have no issue with using the 12-step program as part of an opioid recovery program if it is working for you.
However, it doesn’t seem to be working very well as a cornerstone of recovery, and most drug rehabilitation programs are relying on step-programs as their main focus for opioid rehabilitation. John Kelly, Ph.D. at Harvard University deduced that takes the typical opioid use disorder patient eight years and five to six treatment attempts to achieve just one year of sobriety after reviewing a report of findings from a systematic review of the scientific literature on recovery support services published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Kelly advocates substituting other addictive pharmaceutical drugs for opioids which is could save many from overdose. But there are better choices than replacing one addiction for another!
Here are my arguments against (relying only on) step-programs:
- They call for immediate abstinence from drugs which leads to torturous withdrawal symptoms that cause most who want to stop using to fail.
- Because rehab programs that use step-programs as their “main attraction”, they must administer other addictive drugs such as suboxone to control withdrawal symptoms.
- Participants in step programs cannot be using the tapering-off opioids method while benefiting from group meetings. I prefer the weaning-off method for most patients as they experience a symptom-free withdrawal typically.
- They require participants to accept that they are life-long addicts. This fundamentally goes against Chinese medical theory which works to re-balance the mind and body for true wellness. It also goes against known proven science that has shown that you can repair and rewire your brain as discussed in this previous blog.
I wrote Natural Therapies for Overcoming Opioid Dependency to demonstrate the overwhelming science that proves that acupuncture, used along with herbs and other natural healing modalities, is the best non-pharmaceutical opioid recovery treatment option available. The book is loaded with recent scientific study references that would make the most ardent skeptic of natural therapies take pause. It is my hope that my work will help to ease unnecessary suffering and help lead people to a potent, and highly effective healing path.
Retrieved September 2018: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf SAMHSA*,. (In Press). Report of Findings from a Systematic Review of the Scientific Literature on Recovery Support Services in the United States.
Kelly, J. F., Bergman, B., Hoeppner, B., Vilsaint, C., & White, W. L. (2017). Prevalence, pathways, and predictors of recovery from drug and alcohol problems in the United States population: Implications for practice, research, and policy. Drug and Alcohol Dependence,181, 162-169.
White, W. L. (2012). Recovery/remission from substance use disorders: An analysis of reported outcomes in 415 scientific studies, 1868-2011. Chicago: Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center; Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental disAbilites; Northeast Addiction Technology Transfer Center.