People who participate in medication-assisted therapyoften find that they are unwelcome at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous 12-step meetings. The evidence is clear that 12-step group participation provides definite help to the opiate addict, but what are your options if you can’t find a 12-step group that will welcome you?
Most substance abuse professionals agree that it’s not enough to have someone come in, get his dose, and leave. The addict who participates in group and individual counseling finds himself developing new skills and overcoming bad habits related to his prior drug use. He actually rediscovers the best part of himself, the part he lost while he was using opiates. He has a chance to heal his relationships with the people he loves, and he can establish new relationships with others who share his same struggles.
Dr. Marv Seppala at Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center cites statistics that medication-assisted treatment in conjunction with 12-step programs offers better results than medication therapy alone. For example, the buprenorphine patient might stabilize for two weeks, taper off his buprenorphine for two weeks, and then participate in aftercare for eight weeks. If he relapses, he resumes buprenorphine therapy for 12 weeks, with a four-week taper, and then another eight weeks of aftercare.
Both counseling and 12-step groups offer opportunities to learn more about addiction. MAT patients who understand the nature of their addiction and become better educated about it are 46 percent more likely to remain in treatment.
Unfortunately, both AA and NA hesitate to welcome those participating in medication-assisted therapy. NA’s Bulletin #29 on Methadone and Other Drug Replacement Programs states that methadone patients are welcome at their meetings but they cannot speak out at a meeting or hold office. They are welcome to socialize with members off the agenda.
You can attend meetings at both AA and NA if you are willing to accept that some people may view your recovery as incomplete while you are still on maintenance meds. Others will embrace your participation because they understand that MAT can be as important to the addict as insulin is to the diabetic. Another option is to visit MethadoneSupport.org. The website itself is underdeveloped, but the link to meetings works. Your MAT counselor may also be able to recommend a meeting. Click here to find out more about the MAT Program.